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Owen Howard: Drum Lore Vol. 2: More Lore

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Despite the title, this album is not drum-centric. While Owen Howard comes down on the hot, proactive side

of the drum-intensity spectrum, his transitory polyrhythms and thrusting forces are integral to his band, which is his priority. His own tunes are provocative ensemble vehicles. He also finds rich material in the compositions of other drummers.

Paul Motian’s “Mumbo Jumbo” sounds like a man trying to walk on a tilted floor. In its deadpan, slightly perverse lyricism, it is classic Motian. As with every piece here, the frontline of Howard’s quintet pays vivid personal tribute to the song, then rethinks it, separately and together. John O’Gallagher is in the right channel on alto saxophone; Adam Kolker, usually on tenor saxophone but sometimes on soprano or bass clarinet, is in the left.

Kolker may be the most impeccable under-the-radar tenor in jazz, yet he never sounds clinical. On Philly Joe Jones’ “Got to Take Another Chance,” based on the chords of “Take the ‘A’ Train,” Kolker’s ride over those changes is so smooth and suave that you only feel the urgency of his accents subliminally.

Joe Chambers’ “Ungano” is an incantatory melody with firm edges provided by Johannes Weidenmueller’s bass ostinato and pianist Frank Carlberg’s prodding. O’Gallagher is fleet and spiky. Kolker is sly. It is a rush when, without warning, Carlberg flows into a rapt, lovely, semi-autonomous piano interlude.

Howard’s best composition is “Haiku,” because its bare frame sets everyone in the band free to shine. Weidenmueller goes long and deep. Howard, on brushes, whips up a quiet storm. Kolker was born to play musical haikus. On bass clarinet, he is cryptic, suggestive and minimal. The last track is a solo piano variant of “Haiku.” Carlberg concludes Howard’s quick-witted album on a note of solemn, soulful contemplation.

Originally Published