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The rhythmic pulse of the drum is the heartbeat of music, yet a skilled jazz drummer can add more than just a steady beatalso providing vibrancy and color to the music.
Paul Samuels began learning this early on when his father took him to jazz concerts by musicians like McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie and the great drummer Tony Williams. He also honed his abilities professionally, playing in different settings with many artists, including sax innovator Greg Osby, with whom Samuels recorded with in the early '80s.
Samuels now shines brightly on this outstanding debut, leading an ensemble with Osby, organist Dan Wall, and percussionist and Jamey Haddad. The recording reveals the drummer's abilities and leadership as each musician provides a unique voice to music that Samuels says "keeps one foot in the past and one foot in the future."
Featuring fresh readings of standards and new compositions, the music not only swings, but also flows and breathes sophistication. Samuels' playing is not about grandstanding, and instead of superfluous drum spotlights he expertly speaks within the music, filling the spaces with a variety of patterns and cadences, using everything at his disposal: technical prowess, intuitive interaction and feeling.
The vibe is set on Thelonious Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle" as this atypical organ trio exudes a sound that's closer to the great organist Larry Young than the average greasy B3 recording. Osby's signature sound, which is darting, fluid, and precise, is mirrored stylistically by Dan Wall, a progressive and underrated organist.
A fine example of the music's openess is "Simone," which commences with a stylish and snappy drum intro, Osby singing the melody, and an extended statement from Walls' chilled organ. At the center is Samuels' percolating trap work, with rim shots, flurried taps and a driving beat as the tune ends with organ and alto sax trading voices.
Of the many highlights, the cover of John Coltrane's "Naima" lingers longest in memory. A melodic tom-tom pattern threads through the music, along with an array of peculiar yet wondrous sounds by percussionist Haddad. Other high points include Samuels' mallet and cymbal work on the blissful "Fall, the bluesy free-boppin' title song, and the intense "ESP, where the musicians individually and collectively speak volumes. Fervently recommended.