"No one's interested in your lack of confidence," the late bandleader/drummer Art Blakey would tell a fledgling band member. "Get out there and play with an attitude."
Drummer Colin Stranahan, whether or not he's heard that specific message, seems to have taken the spirit of the advice to heart. Though it's not so much an attitude he plays with on Dreams Untold, but an assurance and poise remarkable for a musician just seventeen years old.
The drummer's father, saxophonist Jim Stranahan, introduced his son to jazz via Miles Davis's Kind of Blue when Stranahan the younger was just eight years old. Now, nine years later, and under the tutelage/mentorship of notables like Denver-based trumpeter Ron Miles and New York-based trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, the young drummer debuts with a compelling, first rate set of sounds.
The disc opens with John Coltrane's "26-2," which might make one listen for an Elvin Jones influence; but the most striking things about Stranahan's approach is its originality. The disc has spun a dozen times for these ears, and the artist still sounds like no one else, as though he's found his own personal path to percussion. Maybe it's that at his age, he hasn't had time to fully absorb any other individual's particular style, or maybe he's just a prodigy. At any rate, he's propulsive, with a very interesting, somewhat low resonance chunka-chunka sound that makes me think of the drumming on some of the early '50s Muddy Waters recordings, when he isn't using the brushes or riding the cymbals.
Stranahan's distinctive drumming chops are wedded to his songwriting skills. His tune-smithing may be even more remarkable than his musicianship. After all, drummer Tony Williams joined Miles Davis when he was still a teenager; and Miles himself was on stage and in the recording studio with Charlie Parker when he was just nineteen years old; but neither of them at those young ages were writing songs at the level of "As if the Dream Were Untold" or "Not Yesterday, Not Today, Not Tomorrow." Both tunes are extended pieces, and feature, in guest spots, Colin's mentor, trumpeter Ron Miles and the leader's dad, soprano saxophonist Jim Stranahan.
These two songs vie for highlight spot, but the pick has to go to the latter tune, a fluid thirteen minute workout that features a compelling series of solos, with a darkly urgent tenor sax turn by nineteen year old Michael Bailey, followed by a looser mood with nineteen year old trumpeter (youth seems a theme here) Kenny Warren's blowing. This in turn leads into a lush and eloquent piano break by veteran Jeff Jenkins, followed by a Jim Stranahan's round-toned turn on soprano that seems to tighten things up a bit. The culmination comes with Ron Miles' turn on trumpet, taking things away from the groove, moving the music to another level altogether; and Colin Stranahan follows him there, giving no ground. A marvelous example of ensemble give and take and interplay from start to finish.
Dreams Untold is a fine and facinating example of forward thinking jazz; no qualifiers like "debut" or "for a player so young" are needed.
Track Listing: 26-2, Romaine's Groove, As If The Dream Were Untold, The Arrival, Not Yesterday, Not Today, Not Tomorrow, Now I'm Up
Personnel: Colin Stranahan--drums; Michael Bailey--tenor sax; Kenny Warren--trumpet; Jeff Jenkins-piano; Ken Walker--bass; special guests: Ron Miles--trumpet; Jim Stranahan--soprano sax