"I want to state the fact that my music isn't all about how fast we can play, or how many chops we have, but to get the point across of emotion and feeling." Words of wisdom from any player at any age, but especially telling from drummer Colin Stranahan who, at the tender age of seventeen, has released his first group recording with Dreams Untold
. Musicians twice his age often continue to struggle with the dilemma of style versus substance, but while Stranahan clearly has some growing to do, he already has a mature musical outlook that differentiates him from his contemporaries.
Kicking things off with a brisk reading of Coltrane's "26-2," Stranahan and the quintet assert their musical personalities from the get-go. Stranahan was first drawn to the kit from listening to Jimmy Cobb on Kind of Blue , but he clearly comes from the Roy Haynes and Art Blakey schools by way of Ralph Peterson. While the tune always comes first, Stranahan takes a back seat to no one. On the self-penned "Romaine's Groove," he turns musical cartwheels, all the while maintaining a solid sense of groove. Pianist Jeff Jenkins, who has played with Bobby Hutcherson and Freddie Hubbard, is just quirky enough to lend an off-kilter edge to the post-bop proceedings.
"As If The Dream Were Untold" starts impressionistically, Jenkins' solo piano leading into a free-style passage; things magically coalesce into a driving jazz waltz that features guest Ron Miles delivering a characteristically erudite and moving trumpet solo. Miles is also featured on the modal workout "Not Yesterday, Not Today, Not Tomorrow."
Mention must be made of two other young players in the quintet: Michael Bailey on tenor and Kenny Warren on trumpet. Both nineteen, the responsibility of holding down the front line and delivering thoughtful, passionate solos looms large indeed; but both players demonstrate, like Stranahan, a maturity beyond their years. On the closing up-tempo swing blues "Now I'm Up," both Bailey and Warren demonstrate surprisingly encyclopaedic knowledge coupled with an understanding of space and tension-and-release that makes for some exciting solo work.
As a bandleader, performer and composer, Colin Stranahan has with one fell swoop established himself as an artist worth watching. While his musical development is already well on its way, one has to wonder where he'll be in ten years time. If there can be any complaint it would be that his writing is still somewhat derivative; still, he has plenty of time to develop a unique voice and Dreams Untold is a harbinger of some very good things to come.
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Personnel: Colin Stranahan (drums), Michael Bailey (tenor saxophone), Kenny Warren (trumpet), Jeff
Jenkins (piano), Ken Walker (bass). With guests: Ron Miles (trumpet on 3,5), Jim Stranahan
(soprano saxophone on 3,5).