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Michael Carvin Experience: Flash Forward

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Michael Carvin’s career as a drum instructor might overshadow his extensive work as a performer. His students have included Eric McPherson, Nasheet Waits and Allison Miller, to name just a few. At the same time, his CV includes stints with B.B. King, Pharoah Sanders, Dizzy Gillespie and a bold sax-and-drums album with Jackie McLean (1975’s Antiquity).

Flash Forward comes eight years after Carvin’s last quartet session, part of the Marsalis Honor Series, and four years after the more experimental Lost and Found Project 2065. His new quartet takes on eight jazz standards-three of which appeared on the Marsalis album, in an effort to present them with a newer rhythmic approach. In that regard Carvin succeeds, pushing and inspiring his bandmates to a higher level.

Things begin tentatively: Keith Loftis’ tenor solo in opener “So What” sounds like a series of Coltrane licks rather a complete thought. But his bandmates pick up the slack and the saxophonist proves himself throughout the rest of the set, especially when interacting with pianist Yayoi Ikawa on “Sayonara Blues.” Carvin’s arrangement of “A Night in Tunisia” (which he first introduced with Gillespie) turns the rhythm around to give it more tension-and-release. One of the album’s most memorable performances arrives with the lesser-known “Same Shame,” by Bobby Hutcherson. Slow and meditative, it flows powerfully, with Carvin’s press rolls building up to a thunderous climax during Ikawa’s solo.

An all-standards set too often becomes a safe bet aimed at complacent listeners. But 70-year-old Carvin fell in love with jazz when he first heard these songs over half a century ago. Recalling that initial feeling, he and his quartet recreate the spark the young drummer heard.

Originally Published