When some of jazz music's more adventurous drummers want to showcase their talents, they usually do so in tandem with another player who, ideally, has enough brand equity to generate collateral interest. Solo percussion recordings rarely generate a queue on releasein large part due to the absence of melody and the almost ubiquitous presence of discordant beating, white noise and/or industrial clatter. It is not that the less traditional sounds don't create a narrative, but that the narrative is not very compelling over the course of an entire collection. An exception is Susie Ibarra's Drum Sketches.
Ibarra's musical aptitude has been long established particularly through her relationships with modern pioneers like bassist William Parker, pianist Matthew Shipp and saxophonist John Zorn. Drum Sketches was originally commissioned as a visual and musical art performance work that included artist Makoto Fujimura, who painted his reactions to Ibarra's performance. This audio component works primarily because Ibarra herself is more nuanced and agile than dominant in her playing, seemingly allowing the instruments to speak.
On "Drum Sketches 5," Ibarra demonstrates effortless versatility working with the drum kit, kulintang and surunay, the latter two being percussion instruments from Ibarra's native Philippines. She creates a multilayered effect using the naturally diverse sounds of the drum kit and the gong instruments. "Drum Sketches 7" is restrained and resilient, Ibarra using versatile gong tones that sound as though they exist on separate musical levels. The sound is moving toward melody at the same time that it clearly resisting any identity other than percussion.
Ibarra seems equally at home with traditional drumming, Asian gong music, conventional techniques and very unconventional ones. In Drum Sketches she displays an ability to use percussion instruments harmonically. The dimensions of her sound are vertical giving the relationship of various gong tones a strong sense of harmony rather than the more typical sound effect they are often used for. It is rare that one gets to say a solo percussion work is musically appealing but even that would be slighting a work that is as complex and unique as Drum Sketches.
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