CELEBRATING
50 YEARS

JazzTimes 10: The Composing Drummer (or the Drumming Composer)

A tentet of works by players who are as mighty with the pen as they are with the sticks

4. Tyshawn Sorey: “A Love Song” (Alloy, Pi, 2014)

As I write these words, Tyshawn Sorey is the subject of a profile in The New Yorker by classical critic Alex Ross. “Sorey’s work eludes the pinging radar of genre and style,” Ross writes. “Is it jazz? New classical music? Composition? Improvisation? Tonal? Atonal? Minimal? Maximal?” It is all and none of those things. It is unpredictable, amorphous, atmospheric, and almost shocking in its lack of dependence on percussion. On the stark, piano-driven “A Love Song,” nearly 15 minutes go by before a drum is heard. Later, an upright acoustic bass enters, using some decidedly jazzy language. (Sorey’s drums do the same as the music moves toward a close.) Jazz and contemporary classical music do take pride of place in Sorey’s work, but this track shows how he’s synthesized the work of experimental musicians of all types into an idiosyncratic milieu that sounds like no one else.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.