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Drummers As Leaders

Jerome Wilson By

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Drummers are not necessarily the first musicians you think of as bandleaders but there is a long tradition of drummer-leaders in jazz from Chick Webb and Gene Krupa to Art Blakey and Paul Motian. Here are two current, lesser-known drummers who keep that lineage going in different formats.

Enrique Haneine
The Mind's Mural
Elegant Walk
2018

Enrique Haneine leads a two saxophone quartet with some Ornette Coleman in its DNA. Haneine and bassist Carlo De Rosa lay down tight, lurching rhythm beds while Anna Webber and Catherine Sikora sing and dialog over them with a quicksilver unity recalling Coleman and Dewey Redman. The group navigates a slippery calypso melody on "The Seventh Layer," struts easily on "The One Eleven Tale" and bounces off an African beat on "Life Of It's Own." Haneine spaces beats like Ed Blackwell while De Rosa throbs beside him and the two saxophones alternately play melodies in close harmony and spiral off into strong solo statements. Webber's and Sikora's chattering beboppish interplay on "Life" and bluesy swinging on "Reality Groove" make for particularly heady music.

The quieter, more lyrical moments of the set also stand out. "Motionless Passage" has Sikora tracing slow, delicate patterns on soprano sax while De Rosa responds with quiet bass notes and Haneine contributes subtle brush work. "While You're Away" is a misty crawl of arco bass, shimmering cymbals, and soprano and tenor wandering that creates an uneasy, ominous mood. Whatever tempo or style they play, this group has a tight cohesion. Sikora and Webber are an impressive team as they snake through Haneine's compositions while the drummer and bassist make a powerful and propulsive rhythm section. This is strong, flavorful work with bite and passion.

Henry Conerway III
With Pride For Dignity
Self-Produced
2018

Henry Conerway III operates in the realm of the piano trio, leading a group with a nitty-gritty feel that relies a lot on blues and gospel. They tackle tunes by the likes of Ray Brown, Duke Ellington and Phineas Newborn, Jr. as well as their own compositions with sly wit and energy. They slip into a nasty after hours roadhouse groove on Brown's "Slippery," jog through Ellington's "Cottontail" at a brisk tempo and meander through a bit of urbane blues on Newborn's "Sugar Ray."

Pianist Kenny Banks Jr. puts a lot of blues and soul feeling into his playing but also shows versatility. He goes into a cross between gospel and early 20th century parlor piano on the title track and pounces on the melody like Oscar Peterson on "The Feel Goods." Bassist Kevin Smith and Conerway provide understated swing and occasionally navigate tricky rhythms on tracks like a slower than normal version of Jimmy Heath's "Gingerbread Boy." Their work keeps Banks anchored in strong grooves that keep the set's down home feel going. They also both get feature spots. Smith shows off his plucking skills on the funky "Slippery" while Conerway saves his flashy moves for the closing solo piece, "Carvin's Agreement," a rolling drum soliloquy with a Latin touch dedicated to his mentor, drummer Michael Carvin.

Tracks and Personnel

The Mind's Mural

Tracks: Once A Thought; The Seventh Layer; The One Eleven Tale; Just Because; Motionless Passage; Hidden Mirrors; Reality Shape; Like A Bronco; While You're Away; Life Of It's Own; Komet.

Personnel: Enrique Haneine: drums, cymbals, udu drum; Anna Webber: tenor saxophone; Catherine Sikora: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Carlo De Rosa: bass.

With Pride For Dignity

Tracks: Slippery; With Pride For Dignity; Sugar Ray; Cottontail; Hopscotch; Gingerbread Boy; The Feel Goods; Carvin's Agreement.

Personnel: Henry Conerway III: drums; Kenny Banks Jr.: piano; Kevin Smith: bass.

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The Mind's Mural

The Mind's Mural

Elegant Walk Records
2018

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Instants Of Time

Instants Of Time

Elegant Walk Records
2016

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