Growing up in Chicago and later moving to Detroit, drummer Tani Tabbal has worked with Sun Ra, Roscoe Mitchell, Geri Allen, and James Carter, to name just a few. Unfortunately, he hasn’t received as much attention for his work as a leader, which includes five previous self-produced albums. Tao Forms, the imprint launched by fellow drummer Whit Dickey, is starting to make up for lost time.
Now Then presents Tabbal in a trio with Michael Bisio (bass) and Adam Siegel (alto saxophone). Throughout, he seems unconcerned with emphasizing his leadership role, preferring to be part of a group that moves together as one. He takes just two solos on the whole album. In “Khusenaton,” named for a saxophonist/magician whom Tabbal met in Sun Ra’s Arkestra, the odd-meter vamp inspires him to construct a set of drum motifs that almost sound melodic. “Inky Bud” closes the album with a full-blown solo that sounds big due to the way the drums are panned between both speakers. But Tabbal is equally convincing when simply rolling and crashing on the cymbals or stepping lightly, as the whole trio does in “Just Woke Up.”
Bisio, who has collaborated with Tabbal for nearly two decades, contributes solid vamps or free scrapes along with writing credit for four of the session’s compositions (Tabbal wrote the remaining six). Siegel plays with a tone that’s equally crisp and rugged, and shows a penchant for strong lines in the horn’s upper register. Together they sound powerful, even when they show restraint.