Growing up in Australia, Andrew Dickeson played several instruments before deciding on the drums when he was 10. Over the years he developed his intuition and sensitivity, the dynamics helping create a wellspring of skills. His artistry took him to the finals of the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Drums Competition in 1992 where he was the only non-American. Later, he went on to play with Martin Taylor, Lee Konitz, Mark Murphy and Branford Marsalis among others.
Dickeson leads a quintet that played on his debut recording Weaver of Dreams, a group based in Sydney called Burn. Here he opts for a top notch quartet that delivers emotional intensity and melodic invention in spades.
Two tunes that swing but which tether themselves differently bookend the album. Saxophonist Eric Alexander stands tall and upfront, his fat notes shaping "Is That So." Even as he traverses the melody and extends it, he finds delightful nuances that flesh the movement beguilingly. The mellifluous sense that pianist Wayne Kelly carries into his ministrations, and the tight groove laid down by Dickeson and bassist Ashley Turner make this a winning opener.
"Iron Man," an Alexander original, moves with abandon. The groove here is harder and Alexander grabs the tune and flies around with muscular, rolling phrases that end with a screeching shard. Once again the rhythm bed is in consonance, with Dickeson adding a scintillating array of colours to give the tune a deeper hue. All that is missing is a well deserved "hallelujah!"
Dickeson plugs in "Little Boat (O Barquinho)" into the mix for a welcome change of rhythm. The tune is illuminated by Alexander whose feeling for the melody gives it a timeless essence before he charts a course that pulls out a plethora of surprises. Kelly's instinct crafts a distinctive line that conceptualizes the melody and cups an adroit sense of improvisation.
The album has plenty going for it in the spontaneity, the energy, and the explorations, to make it a real delight.
Is That So?; For All We Know; On the Trail; The Surrey With the Fringe on Top; To Love and Be Loved; The Man I Love; Invitation; Little Boat (O Barquinho); Iron Man.
Andrew Dickeson: drums; Eric Alexander: saxophone; Wayne Kelly: piano; Ashley Turner: double bass.