The last two concerts I have produced: the UMass Magic Triangle Jazz Series event on February 25 and Thursday’s (March 17) Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares concert at Northampton’s Parlor Room were led by drummers. That, in and of itself, is not a big deal in today’s jazz world (see John Hollenbeck, Tomas Fujiwara, Mike Reed, Terri Lynn Carrington, Bobby Previte, Allison Miller, etc.) But some striking differences and similarities between the two bandleaders made me realize there is more than one way to succeed in music.
Where Matt Wilson appeared precise and polished, Andrew Drury looked a little disheveled, like he had just rolled out of bed. On more than one occasion, Drury began pieces by rummaging around his pile of miscellaneous percussion. Was he looking for something or had the “music” begun?
Where Matt Wilson had us laughing and fully engaged with his in-between banter, Drury confessed that he was having difficulty transitioning from intense music-making to the English language. Where Wilson mostly worked inside established forms, Drury took a more expansive tact, employing more different textures and extended techniques. Where Wilson brought a basic jazz aesthetic to the music, Drury had a rock feel to his playing.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much they had in common. Both are master drummers, of course, working with tremendous musicians. Both are totally versed and in love with the music’s history. Both are accomplished and dedicated jazz educators (check out Wilson’s “kids” CD, WeBop: A Family Jazz Party. Drury spent six months teaching music to members of the Oneida nation and is spending the next few months in public schools in Brownsville and East New York.) Both expressed gratitude for the audiences’ engaged listening.
“We all had a ball,” Drury wrote in an email. “So much appreciate your good spirit and how it manifests itself in a great series, great audience, great dinner, great hanging out before and after the gig… and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to push the music and the group a bit further toward our next steps (most immediately performances in DC and NYC in about 10 days.) Very encouraging!”
Drury’s Content Provider, featuring tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss, treated 65 intrepid listeners to two ample sets of music. Without guitarist Brandon Seabrook, who is on the recent recording but could not make the Jazz Shares gig, the saxophonists had room to move and showcase their considerable skills.
Although the music moved from in-the-pocket funk and African-derived unison passages to basic sound science, it always seemed to retain its shape, purpose and point of view. With eyes closed, it was impossible to determine who/what was creating the undulating electronic sounds (it was Laubrock). I discovered that what sounded like guitar was being produced by Krauss. When I looked, there was Briggan strumming his saxophone keys. (He happens to be an accomplished guitarist.) The vocalized flute passages were actually Drury blowing into the side hole of his floor tom.
My almost grown sons, who had ventured to check out the music, laughed with incredulity. Whatever they ultimately thought of the music, I was glad they saw people claiming the space to express themselves outside of accepted conventions. Periodic murmurs and chuckles from the rest of the crowd confirmed their reactions.
That Andrew Drury, Ingrid Laubrock and Briggan Krauss are virtuoso musicians in complete control of their instruments made their sound production techniques more than novelty. They made music that moved and provoked us, and made us glad we were there.