Introducing Shawn Baltazor
During the head of "Rooicka's Castle," Baltazor is a model of patient, thoughtful propulsion. He plays exactly what's necessary and no more. It's Harrison who provides the rhythmic spark during the lullaby-like introductionthe hiss and ping of Baltazor's cymbals barely register. Even when the band makes a smooth transition into a swinging gait in five-four time, the drummer doesn't rush to make himself heard. Some cymbal patter, a brief tom-tom fill, and a handful of snare accents suffice until Harrison starts to walk and Eklund's melody waxes emphatic. Only then do Baltazor's snare and bass drum accents really dig into the contours of the tune.
Baltazor makes his voice heard in a significant manner amidst the mercurial changes of "Professor Dissendadt." Chattering rim knocks and slippery tom-tom fills twist and turn their way through a brisk vamp that moves between three bars of four-four time and one bar of three-four. As Eklund's composition continues to evolve, the drummer adds a series of snapping snare drum beats. When there's a shift to a lock-step funk feel, Baltazor's flexible backbeat variations prevent the music's foundation from becoming too rigid. Eklund's and Craig Yaremko's (alto sax) treatment of the edgy melody is enhanced by fills that crash and rumble in unexpected places.
Although he takes an extroverted solo over the tricky bass vamp on "Professor Dissendadt," and executes a jolting turn near the end of the appropriately titled "Triple Shot Espresso," it's Baltazor's ethereal, dream-like introduction to "The Supernatural" that really stands out. Tightly knit and restrained, the forty-five second solo feels complete, in and of itself. Baltazor doesn't put the pieces together in an obvious manner, yet there's a continuous sense of development and flow. Without making a lot of strokes, he consistently introduces new sounds and rhythms. It's only in the last several seconds that Baltazor delineates something resembling a steady, recognizable pulse.
Baltazor's recent work with New Tricks and Eklund, as well as saxophonist/flautist Roxy Coss, is significant, in part, because of his uncanny ability to get to the essence of the compositions, ensemble work, and the soloists. Moreover, his drumming matters because of what sounds like an unshakable desire to put his own stamp on the music at hand. Throughout some recent recordings as well as a number of live performances over the last year it's clear that, without abandoning a traditional jazz foundation, Baltazor is rapidly moving toward a place with no convenient stylistic labels and no boundaries.