In a blending of genres that makes categorization irrelevant, drummer Will Calhoun, previously of Living Colour, has released his first CD as a leader of a jazz group. Recorded live at the Blue Note two days after Christmas in 1999, the Will Calhoun Quintet has a familiar ring for a previously unrecorded group. That's because saxophonist Bobby Watson teamed up with his trumpeter from Horizon, Terell Stafford, to create the front line.
The signature Watson alto brightness, combined with surprising accents like the phrase-ending high note on "Minority," assures us that the Calhoun group's credentials are intact, as is its swing. The give-and-take between Watson and Stafford on "Dolphin Dance," not to mention their comfortable command of their instruments, creates a dialog of instrumental vernacular, as between friends. Stafford, who often remains within the middle range of his instrument for a roundness of tone, takes chances in a more aggressive approach that climbs to high notes and thematically develops an extended thought to an exciting climax.
However, Calhoun's experience with a rock band not within the accepted mainstream of jazz groups allows for the individuality of the recording, once the Bobby Watson/Terell Stafford/Orrin Evans perspectives are stated. "Dawn Of The Great Eastern Sun" involves Calhoun's employment of the wave drum to extend the range of the instrument to loop, distort, snap, delay, bend notes and pop with almost sitar-like microtonism. "Drum Hymn For Ana Marie Shorter" creates the opportunity for Calhoun to eulogize the loss of Wayne Shorter's wife with a pulse beating behind the elongated tones of the melody. "Dolphin Dance" ends the performance with a stretching-out by all of the musicians in the quintet, most especially bassist Benitez. Calhoun's irrepressibility behind the soloists finally breaks out into an extended polyrhythmic display of virtuosity that builds "Dolphin Dance" to a climax of opposing meters that's suitable for the end of an evening live at the Blue Note.
Many listeners may not have heard Calhoun perform in a jazz context. However, his Half Note debut shows that he no doubt will enliven future jazz recordings with his energy and taste.
Dorita; Minority; Umoja; Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum; Dawn Of The Great Eastern Sun; Africa's Afternoon; Drum Hymn For Ana Marie Shorter; Dolphin Dance
Will Calhoun, drums, udu, wave drum; Bobby Watson, alto & tenor sax; Terell Stafford, trumpet; Orrin Evans, piano & keyboard; John Benitez, acoustic & electric bass http://www.halfnote.net