Bruce Cox Core-Tet: Status Cymbals (2012)
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Drummer Bruce Cox may not be a household name in the jazz world, but he's studied, played and/or recorded with plenty of people who are. The Philadelphia-born stick-wielder gleaned plenty of wisdom through his lessons with drumming icons Philly Joe Jones and Alan Dawson, and he's put that knowledge to good use by backing the greats over the past several decades. Cox has been the rhythmic force behind a plethora of high profile players, including Saturnine piano madman Sun Ra, saxophone icon Sonny Rollins, vocal great Jon Hendricks, and a trio of James Brown-associated horn menFred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker. With a resume like that, it's hard to imagine why Cox isn't better known, but the answer connects to the very reason why he's earned and held the coveted drum chairs in so many killer bands over the years: Cox's first priority is the music and self-serving agendas aren't his thing. All of this rings true throughout Status Cymbals.
Cox concocted a varied twelve song program that demonstrates his ample skills without putting himself on a pedestal; he simply does what he does best by laying down the rhythmic law behind his simpatico Core-Tet mates. Saxophonist Abraham Burton fronts the band and proves to be highly adaptable throughout. He can swoon, swoop, singe or soar, depending on what the song requires. Pianist Aruan Ortiz is the utility man, able to solo, comp and fill in the gaps wherever they may be. Bassist Gianluca Renzi is the final part of the equation and he carries the music forward, providing direction and ballast. While he's a bit too low in the mix on occasion, he always manages to get the job done.
Status Cymbals gives Cox an opportunity to showcase his original material, while also including a few choice covers. His writing reflects his experiences in different musical circles and simultaneously paints him as one within the tradition and one who pushes boundaries to extend the very definition of the tradition. Groove morphing music ("Burno"), spiritually fervent, yet understated fare ("Good Air"), eerie endeavors ("Dark Matter"), waltz-based numbers ("Robbie-Jean") and odd-metered funk ("Demi") are all part of the package. Cox doesn't put himself first very often, but "Les Rayons" is the perfect example of why he should. This Elvin Jones-esque solo drum number ("Les Rayons") gives him an opportunity to solo in and around a waltzing groove that proves to be an album highlight.
The covers help to round out the program and give a fuller picture of Cox's talents. Saxophonist Benny Golson's "Whisper Not" is delivered in straightforward and pleasing fashion, while "Darn That Dream" is pretty as can be, and Thelonious Monk's "Evidence" gives Cox an opportunity to liberally mix Latin elements and African ideals into his playing. A funky rewrite of saxophonist Wayne Shorter's "Night Dreamer" caps things off and proves to be a fine ending to a recording with plenty to offer.
Track Listing: Burno; Good Air; Whisper Not; Dark Matter; Darn That Dream; Funky State Of Mind; Rafaelle; Evidence; Robbie-Jean; Les Rayons; Demi; Night Dreamer.
Personnel: Bruce Cox: drums; Gianluca Renzi: bass; Aruan Ortiz: piano; Abraham Burton: saxophone.
Record Label: Self Produced