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The mark of a great jazz drummer is prowess in duos. Keeping and pushing rhythm is no longer enough - in duets, the drummer must find melody or stand in the mud. Besides a long-standing partnership with fellow Chicago percussionist Michael Zerang, Hamid Drake has recorded duets with saxophonists Joe McPhee, Sabir Mateen, Peter Brötzmann, Arthur Doyle and Mats Gustafsson, as well as pianist Borah Bergman, trombonist Jeb Bishop and bassist William Parker. But next to a longtime association with his childhood neighbor, Fred Anderson, the pairing with reedman Assif Tsahar is one of his most recurring meetings.
The first volume of Drake and Tsahar's "Soul Bodies project was recorded at the 2001 Vision Festival and the new installment comes from a tour of Sweden the following year. Volume 2 continues in the firebrand tradition of John Coltrane and Rashied Ali's sax/drum duets: rolls of thunder and screaming horn broken by moments of suggested themes, especially in Drake's composition "Mother and Father and the brief encore of Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas . Tsahar is more than adept at the extreme registers of the tenor and Drake well capable of meeting Tsahar's energy, making for an exciting hour.
More unusual in Drake's discography is a 2004 recording with Italian guitarist Paolo Angeli. Drake covers more ground stylistically, as he would have to with the astounding variety of Angeli's prepared Sardinian guitar. Angeli has played with conductor Butch Morris and guitarists Otomo Yoshihide, Elliott Sharp and Fred Frith (who would seem his most kindred spirit) as well as his countryman Carlo Actis Dato and his litheness is nothing short of remarkable. The lower tuning of the guitar gives him presence in the bass register and his amazing dexterity allows him to cover both clefs at once and by whatever means he is also able to come off like orchestral strings, percussion and even a Fender Rhodes. Only two of the eight tracks were composed (one by each of the players); the rest show a surprising simpatico between two musicians seemingly capable of just about anything. They merge their personal leanings - Drake's Afro-Muslim and Angeli's Italian traditions, with each singing one track - but more to the point they create something wholly their own.
Tracks and Personnel
Live at Glenn Miller Cafe
Tracks: Warriors Of Stillness; Praying Mantis; Mother And Father; Handing Clouds; Grasp The Birds Tail; Saint Thomas.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.