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Michael Carvin: Marsalis Music Honors Michael Carvin

A one-time sideman to the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby Hutcherson and Jackie McLean, Carvin has also been a revered drum teacher over the past 30 years who helped shape the conceptions of such renowned drummers as Cindy Blackman, Ralph Peterson, Nasheet Waits, Rodney Green and Billy Martin. With a potent crew consisting of pianist Carlton Holmes, Carvin’s regular pianist for the past 15 years, and two youngbloods in tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland and bassist Dezron Douglas (in his first recording session), the Texas-born drummer deftly shapes this session from behind the kit. And whether he’s swinging ferociously, as on the adrenalized closer “Hello Young Lovers” or laying down an infectious groove-happy shuffle, as on the Ravel-derived melody “The Lamp Is Low,” Carvin drives the band with his relentless beat and irrepressible spirit. But he is also capable of playing brushes with Zen-like restraint, as he demonstrates on a delicate, slowly evolving 13-minute rendition of Charles Lloyd’s meditative “Forest Flower,” which has the technically accomplished Strickland playing in a far more relaxed mode than usual.

The band comes out blazing on “I’ll Remember April” before settling into an easy shuffle-swing groove on “The Lamp Is Low,” then chilling completely on a luxurious “Body and Soul,” which features a strong guest appearance on tenor sax from Branford Marsalis. Carvin’s solo on Monk’s “In Walked Bud” is strictly old-school bebop-it even cumulates with a quote from “Salt Peanuts”-and his ambitious arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia” is full of tricky tempo shifts and time-signature changes that give this old warhorse a new look. Throughout this long-overdue tribute, the 61-year-old drumming master shapes the proceedings like he constructed that solo: with focused intensity and a strong musical vision.

Originally Published