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Tyshawn Sorey: Oblique – I

Mike Shanley reviews drummer Tyshawn Sorey's latest, 'Oblique – I'

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Any body of work that was inspired by a conversation with Anthony Braxton is bound to have some thoughtful moments driving it. When drummer-composer Tyshawn Sorey is the leader of the session, it only ups the ante in terms of expectations and final outcome. Sorey, a doctoral fellow in composition at Columbia University who has recorded with Steves Coleman and Lehman as well as the collaborative trio Fieldwork, has already released two discs under his own name. Oblique – I differs from them, as the 10 tracks come from a body called 41 Compositions that the drummer wrote after receiving encouragement from Braxton.

Composers ranging from Karlheinz Stockhausen to Henry Threadgill inspired the pieces, which are titled by numbers. Loren Stillman (alto), Todd Neufeld (guitars), John Escreet (electric and acoustic piano) and Chris Tordini (bass) join Sorey for a series of knotty pieces that have some noticeable precedents yet still sound new and crisp. Stillman’s performance on “Twenty” shows how he has evolved as an original on his horn; the alto solo “Eighteen” sounds like that of a more straight-ahead Braxton. Escreet often has the task of holding things together by just playing chords, but during solos he breaks away into free territory with speed and grace.

Sorey continues to sound tremendous as a performer, straddling pure freedom and the lessons he learned from Coleman about where the beat can fall. Although a few tracks can be a bit rigid, Oblique – I profiles a player who represents the uncharted future of jazz composition.

Originally Published