New York bassist and composer Devin Gray leads the quartet of Ellery Eskelin on tenor sax, Dave Ballou on trumpet, and Michael Formanek also on bass, playing 8 original compositions of melodic creative jazz.
Catalog ID: 19
Squidco Product Code: 17484
Packaging: DVD Digipack
Recorded on April 30th, 2011 by Jon Rosenberg at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY.
Ellery Eskelin-tenor saxophone
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2. Cancel The Cancel
3. Down Time
4. Prospect Park In The Dark
5. Talking With Hands
Related Categories of Interest:
NY Downtown & Jazz/Improv
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
Melodic and Lyrical Jazz
sample the album:
"In today's crowded jazz market, it's an achievement to come up with a signature group sound. And yet, this is just one of the wonderful things immediately apparent on Devin Gray's Dirigo Rataplan. An amazing percussionist, Gray's stunningly detailed playing sounds like a cross between Fritz Hauser and Roy Haynes.
He flashes some serious compositional chops as well. Dirigo Rataplan is comprised of eight bright, restless originals that are complex and intimate, brainy and engaging, and occasionally a bit outré. Making all of this great music come alive is Gray's phenomenal quartet. Saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and trumpeter Dave Ballou are a formidable front line, and both are absolutely at the tops of their respective games here. Eskelin marvelously dissolves the rambunctious abstract funk of "Cancel The Cancel" into a foggy landscape of whispers and questions. Like Eskelin, Ballou has a lush sound and a seemingly endless wealth of ideas. His solo on "Down Time" is beautifully constructed, rising from the melody like a raven taking flight. Michael Formanek is another great choice-a veteran bassist who's played a similar sort of advanced, creative jazz for decades in his own bands, as well as those led by saxophonist Tim Berne and pianist Uri Caine.
"Quadraphonically" may be the disc's most radical track. Inspired by bird song, melodies and rhythms intertwine. Gray's playing here is uncannily tuneful, and Formanek doesn't go anywhere near a traditional jazz bass line, hewing closer to the tune's mercurial melodic content. Still, it grooves like mad, especially as Ballou and Eskelin solo over the explorations of the deeply connected rhythm section. It's a perfect example of the famed Weather Report dictum, "everyone solos and no one solos." Gray is fond of collective improvisations, and nearly all of the pieces feature conversational pairings of different members of the quartet.
This continually shifting sound palette makes for a highly stimulating listen. Though fractured and twisted funk rhythms of various sorts figure prominently on "Cancel the Cancel," "Down Time," and "Talking With Hands," Gray's intent never wavers from the cutting edge. While they access freer, looser rhythmic structures, and darker moods, on "Prospect Park In The Dark," "Thickets," and "Otaku," each of these lovely, brooding pieces is imbued with a relentless forward motion. The closing "Katahdin" is a Berne-like burner that ties all of these elements together in a cogent manner.
As wonderful as the music is, the packaging is not so. Coming in a DVD-sized holder, the largely red, black, and white design seems to have a color or two missing, rendering the track listing and Gray's brief notes on each composition practically illegible. So, put the CD case down, and listen to this beautifully played, impeccably recorded music and be amazed. Every track on this magical CD brims with creativity and inspiration. Dirigo Rataplan is one of this year's very best."-Dave Wayne, All About Jazz
Get additional information at All About Jazz
• Show Bio for Michael Formanek
"One marker of bassist Michael Formanek's creativity and versatility is the range of distinguished musicians of several generations he's worked with. While still a teenager in the 1970s he toured with drummer Tony Williams and saxophonist Joe Henderson; starting in the '80s he played long stints with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch and Freddie Hubbard. (As a callback to those days, Formanek recorded with hardbop pianist Freddie Redd in 2013). The bassist has played a pivotal role on New York's creative jazz scene going back to the '90s when he notably led his own quintet and played in Tim Berne's barnstorming quartet Bloodcount. Nowadays Formanek's in the co-op Thumbscrew with Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.
Formanek is also a composer and leader of various bands. His principal recording and international touring vehicle is his acclaimed quartet with Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums, which records for ECM; 2010's The Rub and Spare Change and 2012's Small Places both earned coveted five-star raves in Down Beat. Formanek writes, and the quartet plays, compositions of great rhythmic sophistication that unfold in a natural sounding way - challenging music the players make sound like lyrical free expression. His occasional groups include the 18-piece all-star Ensemble Kolossus, roping in many New York improvisers he works with. Ensemble Kolossus recorded their first CD of all Formanek originals for the prestigious ECM label in December of 2014. The CD, The Distance was released in February 2016 and in addition to numerous other accolades also received a five-star review in Downbeat!
Formanek's other recordings as leader include Wide Open Spaces and Extended Animation for quintet and Low Profile and Nature of the Beast for seven players (all on Enja), and the solo album Am I Bothering You? (Screwgun). Mirage (Clean Feed) is by the occasional improvising trio of Formanek, tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn. Thumbscrew's 2014 debut is on Cuneiform Records. Michael Formanek has also made dozens of recordings as sideman, for among others Dave Ballou, Tim Berne, Jane Ira Bloom, Dave Burrell, Harold Danko, Marty Ehrlich, Tomas Fujiwara, Gary Thomas and Jack Walrath.
As composer of works for ensembles from duo to mixed jazz and classical orchestra, Michael Formanek has received institutional support from Chamber Music America, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Peabody Conservatory, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. As an educator, Formanek teaches bass and other jazz courses, and leads the Jazz Ensemble at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory."-Michael Formanek Website (http://www.amibotheringyou.com/bio.html)
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• Show Bio for Devin Gray
"An artist interested in multiple musical directions and one who strives for quality and sincerity in his work. His exciting energy has compelled him towards many different musical directions and projects. Considered by his contemporaries as cutting edge, Gray shows promise as an artist that will not only move the music forward, but one who will share his unique musical vision with the world of music.
Devin Gray's fresh approach to modern drumming has enabled him to play with many of America's great jazz musicians. He has performed and recorded with innovative musicians of contrasting styles and backgrounds such as: David Liebman, Tony Malaby, Gary Thomas, Ingrid Jensen, Dave Burrell, Dave Ballou, Michael Formanek, Nate Wooley, Stephan Crump, George Garzone, Chris Speed, Drew Gress, Sam Rivers, Ralph Alessi, John O'Gallagher, Ellery Eskelin, Kris Davis, Ted Rosenthal, Matt Mitchell, Uri Caine, Andrew D'Angelo, Vardan Ovsepian, Bill McHenry as well as many others.
Devin has been fortunate to perform in many places around the globe and continues to make peace with his audiences. He is a top call young drummer in many modern jazz circles in New York City as well as multiple cities on the East Coast of America. Current leader projects include two quartets: "Dirigo Rataplan" featuring Ellery Eskelin, Dave Ballou, and Michael Formanek, and "RelativE ResonancE" featuring Chris Speed, Kris Davis, and Chris Tordini. He is currently living, playing, and composing in Brooklyn, New York."-http://devingraymusic.com/about (Devin Gray Website)
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