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Devin Gray: Dirigo Rataplan

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Devin Gray is only 28 years old but, in his case, age does not mean much. Already, in his debut as a leader, this Brooklyn-based drummer proves himself a mature and resourceful composer and promising band leader, one who can lead any outfit with the energy and colors produced from his drum set, as the Latin-French title of this album suggests. And he knows to how to enlist perfect collaborators to realize his musical vision—masterful, experienced leaders in their own rights: tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, trumpeter Dave Ballou and bassist Michael Formanek.

From the opening "Quadraphonically," this quartet works as an organic unit, where the shifting roles of all four musicians create a bigger whole. Gray is a natural drummer, with a distinct, imaginative musical language—rhythmic, colorful and intelligent, yet melodic and accessible. Formanek expands Gray's rhythmic palette and roots it down with his impeccable sense of time. Ballou adds a beautiful, lyrical sound and Eskelin takes the music anywhere he wants.

Gray's compositions vary in their spirit but all are open to improvisation. "Down Time" ebbs and flows naturally through gentle shifts in its funky rhythmic pattern, leaves enough room for Eskelin to soar over the hypnotic polyrhythms. The homage to modernist composer Charles Ives, "Prospect Park After Dark," is serene and contemplative, featuring Gray's impressive and delicate mallet solo of Gray. On "Talking with Hands," Gray energetically dictates the intensity of Eskelin and Ballou's flights, while "Otaku" is an evasive and restless improvisation without any attempt to sketch a clear structure. The contemplative and reserved dedication to drummer Gerald Cleaver (Gray's mentor) on "Thickets," emphasizes the group's emphatic and telepathic interplay through minimal sonic articulations. The closing "Katahdin" is an infectious, joyful melody, manifested patiently by Eskelin and Ballou, both pushed by the driving pulse set by Gray and Formanek.

A highly creative document by a rare and gifted musician.


Track Listing: Quadraphonically; Cancel the Cancel; Down Time; Prospect Park in the Dark (For Charles Ives); Talking with Hands; Otaku; Thickets (For Gerald Cleaver); Katahdin.

Personnel: Ellery Eskelin: tenor sax; Dave Ballou: trumpet; Michael Formanek: bass; Devin Gray: drums.

Title: Dirigo Rataplan | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Skirl Records

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