It was a week that is like an increasing number of weeks out of the year for drummer Jim Black. It began in France, performing in tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin’s trio with accordionist Andrea Parkins. Black then flies back to New York, playing a Tonic gig with Pachora, a co-op quartet with reed player Chris Speed, guitarist Brad Shepik and bass guitarist Skuli Sverrisson that extrapolates the music of Eastern Europe and Turkey, just hours after landing at JFK. He has only a couple of days to do “the visa mambo” and repack for a tour of Japan with pianist Satoko Fujii and bassist Mark Dresser, where, on a night off, he interfaced with electro-acoustic improviser Otomo Yoshide. Black is in such a rush that he mails a packet with a CD-R of his upcoming Winter & Winter album, Alas No Axis, with almost four times the necessary postage-a small herd of 33-cent holiday reindeer stampede in several directions across the envelope.
Black is busy for a reason. He was integral to several decade-shaping bands of the ’90s, including trumpeter Dave Douglas’ Tiny Bell Trio and saxophonist Tim Berne’s Bloodcount, combining beats from such far-flung places as the Balkans and Brooklyn with a keen sense of ensemble and a willingness to throw out all the rules. Many drummers have developed clever, polyglot styles, drawing upon jazz, rock and traditional rhythms.