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Curtis Nowosad: Curtis Nowosad (Sessionheads United)

Review of the Canadian-born, NYC-based drummer's third album as a leader

Cover of Curtis Nowosad album by Curtis Nowosad
Cover of Curtis Nowosad album by Curtis Nowosad

On his third album, drummer Curtis Nowosad celebrates his move from Winnipeg, Manitoba to New York, N.Y. by updating his sound. Where his first two albums were solidly straight-ahead, applying a hard-bop aesthetic even to pop tunes such as Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” this one is slick and fusion-edged—not quite smooth jazz, but not far removed either.

Two things keep the album’s polish and pop instincts from overpowering the music. First, Nowosad doesn’t seem much interested in writing groove-based, easily digestible ear candy, preferring instead to hold on to the complex harmonies and chromatic melodicism of his earlier albums. Apart from a pair of vocal numbers featuring singer Brianna Thomas—Skip James’ “Hard Times Killing Floor Blues” and Nina Simone’s “See Line Woman,” both of which get pop-friendly treatments—the jazz content is generally high. (And what kind of smooth jazz act would have titles like “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” and “Never Forget What They Did to Fred Hampton”?)

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J.D. Considine

J.D. Considine has been writing about jazz and other forms of music since 1977. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Musician, Spin, Vibe, Blender, Revolver, and Guitar World. He was music critic at the Baltimore Sun for 13 years, and jazz critic at the Globe and Mail for nine. He has lived in Toronto since 2001.