Drummer Aaron Binder is anything but heavy-handed. Placing emphasis on rims, brushes and snares rather than the big beat, Binder is as sensitive a drummer as he is a session leader. His crisp rhythmic gestures lend a modern feel to the late-'50s hard bop vibe that he so obviously loves, and they are just one aspect of a compelling neo-retro groove that Binder has been developing over the past ten years.
Bang The Drum Quickly is a collection of sessions recorded in 2003 and 2004 that remained on the shelf until this year. It features a Virginia all-star jazz combo with the always excellent trumpeter John D'earth, veteran pianist Hod O'Brien, the consistently impressive tenor player Jeff Decker, and bassist Randall Pharr.
The disc opens with the Hod O'Brien composition "Diffusion of Beauty, which O'Brien originally recorded back in 1958 on the Art Farmer/Donald Byrd/Idrees Sulieman release Three Trumpets. John D'earth's bright tone carries the soaring melody flawlessly, and it blends well Decker's rich molasses tone. O'Brien's carefree bebop style makes you want to search out his other records, notably his double CD set Live at Blues Alley.
The players really start to shine, though, with Binder's syncopated tango "Untitled Latin. The composition opens as if it were going to be another version of "Night In Tunisia, with a snaking sax and kinetic stick work by Binder, but then it quickly transitions to an exotic 32-bar theme driven by trumpet and sax, creating a joyous surge of rhythm. The song is not unlike Duke Jordan's "Dangerous Liaisons in tone and delivery. D'earth's solo here is wonderful, entering the spotlight with a stutter, attacking the melody from new angles and then exiting with a soft outro.
"Vitality is a touching ballad composed by Binder. While D'earth sounds under-miked, somehow the echo of his trumpet actually adds to the emotional weight of this beautiful song. Decker's patient phrasing and sweet blues are so close to Dexter Gordon's approach that this piece would make a great blindfold test. Hod O'Brien offers melodic elegance, at once brisk and pensive.
The bouncy bop track "Timely, by D'earth, is great fun, highlighted by Binder trading bars with the soloists and the Dearth/Decker duo, sounding big in the Blue Note tradition. Decker is at his most Dexter-ish, crafting a muscular, bluesy groove. Additionally, the CD features a jaunty version of "Just In Time, which is a nice feature for O'Brien.
Bang The Drum Quickly is not dangerous music by any stretch, but its powerful melodies keep playing in your head long after the last track is over. Like his previous releases, Fortune Smiles On Aaron Binder and This Side Of Jazz, Binder creates a unique sound of his own by drawing inspiration from the past. Hopefully, he'll reach the point where he records more often.
Personnel: Aaron Binder: drums; John D'earth: trumpet; Jeff Decker: tenor sax; Hod O'Brien: piano;
Randall Pharr: bass.