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Leon Parker: Belief

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Leon Parker continues to be one of the true originals of the day. Though it’s doubtful if his spare less-is-more

approach to the drum kit will be widely influential-it’s likely to remain his exclusive territory-Parker’s effectiveness is certain to give pause to aspiring drummers who take note; and it’s liable to give drum manufacturers the shakes along the way. Declaring himself solely a percussionist, Parker has shed the perceived encumbrances of the full drum kit. To shape and round his muse here he employs the additional percussion of Adam Cruz and regular bandmate Natalie Cushman, who join the leader at the heart of this date. They are surrounded by bassist Ugonna Okegwo, and on several tracks the saxophones of regular bandmate Steve Wilson, plus Steve Davis’ trombone, and Tom Harrell’s trumpet and fluegelhorn.

Further percussive color is lent by berimbau, marimba, and steel pan. The combination of berimbau and steel pan is new and bears further exploration as they work surprisingly well in tandem. The program, though short at an LP-length 43:11, varies from organic percussive originals to very spare and swinging arrangements of standards, such as “Close Your Eyes,” and an irresistible “Sentimental Mood” with the berimbau/steel pan alignment. Belief elicits Parker’s most insistent traps work as he delivers a convincing Blakeyesque shuffle. Thankfully, Leon Parker hasn’t lost his original vision, which if anything is in keener focus here. – Willard Jenkins