Since Anthony Braxton recorded his groundbreaking For Alto
in the late Sixties, all the instruments of the standard jazz ensemble have been the focus of solo albums. Peter Kowald has even recorded an acclaimed album of solo bass, and it is not alone as a solo bass recording. But rarest of all are all-percussion albums. The relatively limited melodic possibilities of the percussion apparatus have seemed to remove one of the cardinal elements of music of any style, and made drum solo albums a recipe for tedium.
Of course, this need not be the case, and Ramon Lopez proves it here with Eleven Drums Songs. This is an album that made we wish for a CD-Rom, just to find out how Lopez has made some of the sounds on this fascinating collection. For example, what is the whistling instrument in "Lucas"? What makes that plucked string sound at the end of "Drunken Buleria"? On "The Birth of Voice" how does he achieve that careening bass sound? (Actually, that one is manifestly by striking his drums at a furious rate, but the effect is initially startling.) I think it probable, although not certain, that Lopez's kit contains some instruments that are not drums, but on the other hand, Eddie Prevost created some fascinating string effects by bowing his drums last year on his dynamite duets with Evan Parker, Most Materiall, so why not Lopez?
Lopez's work on identifiable drums, meanwhile, is as varied and versatile as a project like this one demands. He can create hypnotic march-like figures, as on "Kalakar III (Deepchandi Taal 14 Beats)" and "Kalakar II (Jhap Taal 10 Beats)," which from their titles seem to be based on the rhythms of Indian music. "Drummers Remembered" fashions an extended fanfare on a cymbal, punctuated by emphatic drumbeats - contradt this to "Beauty and the Best," which also creates a drum/cymbal dialogue, but of a very different texture. "The Final Shroud" suggests an ominous death march, as perhaps indicated by the title. "Alicante's Cowbell" explores the varying sonorities of that humble instrument. "The Birth of Voice" plays with dynamics. "Miracle of Jazz" explores the upper reaches; "Primi's Martinete" pastiches mechanical rhythms.
Drummers take note: this is a profound, significant document.