Igor Willcox: # 1

Troy Dostert BY

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Brazilian drummer Igor Willcox offers a little something for everyone on this nine-track debut album. Fans of fusion and jazz- funk in particular will appreciate Willcox's hard-driving, relentless style, and with some tasteful contributions from his colleagues, it's an auspicious outing from this versatile drummer and songwriter.

Willcox clearly enjoys working with keyboardists, as all nine cuts feature keyboards of some kind; although tenor saxophonist Clayton Sousa is also a crucial presence on most of the tracks, the keys play a major role here throughout the record, and they shape the style and feel of each cut. Erik Escobar uses thick synth parts that lend texture to funky tracks like the catchy odd-meter opener, "Brotherhood," or the even more keyboard-laden "Old Friends," with multiple synthesizer lines doing a lot of the work in carrying the tune and defining the rhythm of the track. And on "Waltz For My Love," Bruno Alves brings additional synthesizers to that pop jazz-flavored track.

In contrast, Vinícius Morales lends more of an old-school sound to the tracks on which he's featured, such as "Julie's Blues," on which he serves up some tasty organ funk, or his potent piano solo on "Brad Vibe," and especially on "Lifetime," a cut that pays jazz-rock homage to Tony Williams, with Morales's fierce Fender Rhodes the perfect complement to guitarist Carlos Tomati's searing guitar and Willcox's frenetic drumwork.

Admittedly, with the shifting personnel on the tracks and the significant range of styles, the record can't achieve a consistent feel from beginning to end. It helps that Sousa appears frequently: his tenor sax solos on tracks like "Brotherhood" and "The Scare" are by turns soulful and fiery, and his comfortable, in-the-pocket style provides much-needed continuity. And of course there's Willcox, whose faultless technique manages to be both precise and supple in supporting each of the personnel groupings on the record. For this reviewer's money, though, Willcox's music is strongest when he really turns it loose. The spirited up-tempo burners like "Room 73" and "Lifetime" are compelling in their persistent jazz-rock intensity, with a bit more grit and fire than the lusher synth-based tracks. In any case, there's more than enough evidence here to suggest that Willcox can claim a place at the table among current drummers continuing to draw effective inspiration from the abundant resources of jazz fusion.

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