These days it seems that too many young artists are jumping into the fray as leaders too soon. They may have admirable technique, but they're often still searching for a voice, and would served to wait a little longer before taking that all-important leap. That's not the case with Antonio Sanchez. Since emerging in the late 1990s, the drummer has racked up a remarkable number of significant associations, recording and/or touring with artists including Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden and the late Michael Brecker. He's also become a part of the New York cadre of musicians that includes saxophonist Chris Potter, and bassist Scott Colley.
So it's no surprise that Sanchez's debut as a leader, Migration, is so mature and self-assured. On a program of four Sanchez originals, two well-known jazz standards and one original each from two high-profile guestsCorea, who plays on his own Latin-esque "One for Antonio, and Metheny, who can be heard on his elegant yet dynamically building ballad, "Arena (Sand) and an all-stops-pulled duet with Sanchez on Miles Davis' "Solar the drummer proves himself to be a flexible leader with terrific instincts for finding the place where detailed form and freedom meet.
Metheny has worked with many drummers over the years, but he's never enlisted one of his Pat Metheny Group drummers for a variety of side projects as he has with Sanchez. While the guitarist immediately stamps any project with his indomitable musical personality, what's most remarkable about his work on Migrationand the same goes for Coreais that even when the composition is his, there's an approach that sounds like Sanchez, and fits seamlessly with the drummer's vision.
Sanchez's core groupfeaturing Potter and tenor saxophonist David (no relation) Sanchez, and anchored by the ever-dependable, ever-inventive Colleyburns its way through the modal, 11/8 blues of the drummer's "Changes Within. Despite it being a blues, Sanchez's knotty head gives it a personal marker, as does his foot pedal-controlled woodblock, which lends the piece the feeling of a clave, even if it isn't one by strict definition. There may be no piano or guitar to provide harmonic support, but Colley peppers his single note lines with the occasional chord to provide movement throughout.
Potter and David Sanchez are continuous powerhouses, soloing in tandem on "Greedy Innocence, a tune that's a mix of Coltrane-esque modality, quick-on-its-feet motifs, swing and periods of total freedom. That they are so unmistakable, even when winding in and around each other, speaks to Antonio Sanchez's instincts in picking the perfect players for the date.
Sanchez's "Ballade is a dark and spacious trio piece, featuring Potter on soprano and an evocative solo from Colley. The music may range from an intense rework of Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge to Sanchez's fiery "Did You Get It? But what comes through loud and clear is Sanchez's voice, a seamless blend of loose improvisational encouragement and challenging charts that makes Migration one of the best debuts of 2007.
Personnel: Antonio Sanchez: drums; Chris Potter: tenor and soprano saxophones; David Sanchez: tenor saxophone; Scott Colley: bass; Pat Metheny: guitar (3, 8); Chick Corea: piano (1).