Devin Gray is a polymath: inventive drummer, intrepid composer, and chief of a burgeoning record label, Rataplan. The New York-based Gray continues his ascension with Melt All the Guns, an electrifying summit of three masters at the tops of their crafts—the other two being trumpeter Ralph Alessi and pianist Angelica Sanchez—joining forces to stand up to the United States’ tragic epidemic of gun violence. The album’s title might suggest a recording on which frustrations boil over into blurts and squeals. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The protest music that Gray, Alessi, and Sanchez make is akin to meditative paintings, vivid in scope with microscopic-level attention to detail.
Composed by Gray during the fall of 2019 in response to a string of shootings and recorded on the heels of a tour throughout the U.S. and Canada, the five intricately woven landscapes on Melt All the Guns unfurl with beauty and intensity. The rapport that the drummer shares with Alessi and Sanchez is something special; the out-of-this-world dynamics that the latter two bring to the table are the near-perfect conversational match for Gray’s turbulent, expansive approach. Album opener “Think About It” crystallizes this. Inspired by Nasheet Waits, it’s a soaring and busy track where melodic composition and wild improvisation meet in glorious synergy. “Jet Lag Party,” “Micro Waves,” and the title track follow a likeminded hectic tempo; the closer, “Protect Our Environment,” is an introspective piece with stunning heart-on-sleeve lines delivered by Alessi and Sanchez.
Clocking in at only about 20 minutes but crammed with ideas and emotion, Melt All the Guns is a rallying cry needed at this dire moment in time.