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When the people at Modern Drummer magazine conceived the idea of an album highlighting some of the most innovative drummers on the scene today, they probably didn't realize they would also be making a statement applicable to all instruments: that there are some people who are players of their instruments, and then there are musicians artists who transcend the boundaries of their instrument, rise above the egotistical concerns of demonstrating just how good they are and ambitiously aim, instead, to create compelling musical statements. Modern Drummer Presents Drum Nation Volume One has its share of both, but, happily, the tendency leans towards artists whose interests lie beyond merely the potential of their chosen instrument.
Take Bill Bruford's reading of "Beelzebub," an interesting choice because it finds Bruford's recent all-acoustic Earthworks ensemble tackling the first track from his first solo album, Feels Good to Me ('78), a more electric fusion affair that included guitarist Allan Holdsworth. With his current group of pianist Steve Hamilton, woodwind multi-instrumentalist Tim Garland and acoustic bassist Mark Hodgson, Bruford proves that good material transcends context and instrumentation. While Bruford's mathematically-precise drumming still drives this complicated little piece, he has loosened up over the years. And Garland's bass clarinet and soprano saxophone bring a different complexion to the tune, making it every bit as relevant as the original.
Chad Wackerman uses his space to continue documenting his most recent band of Australians, including vibraphonist Daryl Pratt, bassist Leon Gaer and, in particular, young guitarist James Muller, who continues to be one of the most inventive players you've never heard. "The Spell" is a clever and more cerebral kind of fusion that should make listeners want to dash out to check out Scream ('00) and the more recent Legs Eleven ('03), both featuring this fine group.
Stanton Moore, of Galactic fame, continues to mine the wealth of New Orleans rhythms, this time augmenting his organ-guitar-bass-baritone quintet with a six-piece horn section to give "Sprung Monkey" an authentic New Orleans street vibe. Steve Smith, teamed with tabla master Zakir Hussain, delivers the eleven-minute opus "Mad Tea Time," which successfully traverses the boundary between East and West, climaxing with a thrilling series of trade-offs between drums and tablas. And British legend Simon Phillips delivers a pedal-to-the-metal piece of high octane fusion with "Manganese," featuring not only his fine drumming, but also guitarist Andy Timmons, a player we ought to be hearing more from.
While the rest of the tracks successfully demonstrate the innovative minds of its creatorsmost notably Terry Bozzio's "A Glimpse into a Deeply Disturbed Mind," which turns techno on its ear by having live drums trigger and work off sampled sounds instead of sampled sounds working off programmed drum rhythmsthe album really does separate the men from the boys when it comes to true artists versus players. Still, Modern Drummer Presents Drum Nation Volume One is a captivating look into the instrument's potential, highlighting several artists who are certainly worthy of more than a second look.
Track Listing: A Glimpse into a Deeply Disturbed Mind; Beelzebub; Mad Tea Time Part 1; Mad Tea Time Part 2; The Spell; Sprung Monkey; Manganese; Lagerborg; Faceless Pastiche; Shut Up and Play Yer Drums; Wandering Portland Maine; Pull Up My Sleeve
Personnel: On "A Glimpse into a Deeply Disturbed Mind": Terry Bozzio (drums, keyboards, voice, reason, and Ableton "live" sequencing software) On "Beelzebub": Bill Bruford's Earthworks: Bill Bruford (drums), Tim Garland (bass clarinet, soprano saxophone), Steve Hamilton (piano), Mark Hodgson (acoustic bass) On "Mad Tea Time Parts 1 and 2": Steve Smith (drums), Zakir Hussain (tablas), George Brooks (tenor sax and tamboura), Fareed Haque (sitar guitar), Kai Eckhardt (bass) On "The Spell": Chad Wackerman (drums), Daryl Pratt (vibes), James Muller (guitar), Leon Gaer (bass) on "Sprung Monkey": Stanton Moore (drums), Robert Mercurio (bass), Jeff Raines (guitar), Rich Vogel (Hammond B-3), Ben Ellman (baritone sax), with the L'il Rascals Brass Band Horns: Dewen Scott (trumpet), Jeffery Hills (tuba), Glen David Andrews (trombone), Corey Henry (trombone), Mervin Campbell (trumpet), Vincent Broussard (saxophone) On "Manganese": Simon Phillips (drums), Jeff Babko (keyboards), Jimmy Johnson (bass), Andy Timmons (guitar) On "Lagerborg": Josh Freese (drums) On "Faceless Pastiche": Rod Morgenstern (drums, percussion), Jordan Rudess (keyboards) On "Shut Up and Play Yer Drums": Tim Alexander (drums, percussion), Brain (drums, percussion) On "Wandering Portland Maine": Marco Minnemann (drums, percussion) On "Pull Up My Sleeve": Stephen Perkins (drums), Brooks Wackerman (drums)