Jeremy Noller's debut as a leader makes a broad case for his international brand of jazz. Music Notes assembles a variety of musical strains, including American jazz, West-African rhythms, and even folk music, blending them all seamlessly. With eight original compositions, Noller proves his value as a composer as well as a drummer.
The first notable element is the inclusion of the acoustic guitar, ably manned by Jesse Lewis. The natural resonance of the steel strings and wooden body reinforces the earthiness of the instrumental mix. "We Go" is strummed, reminiscent of Pat Metheny's 80/81 (ECM, 1981), and on the title track, the mix of guitar with the gyil creates a hybrid of African melodic percussion and folk picking: a beautiful blend.
Tenor saxophonist Brian VanArdsdale lends the most straight-ahead voice on the album, grounding Music Notes firmly in the jazz tradition. He builds his solo slowly on "On The Is," with a delivery in the best Sonny Rollins calypso tradition; despite the finger-picked guitar intro, "Don't Be Scurred" quickly reveals itself as a solid blues framework for some excellent tenor invention.
Noller is a percussionist with a lot on his mind; he plays the kit, but can't resist incorporating a panoply of unusual percussion instruments. The gyil allows him to add pentatonic melodies to his bag of tricks. Two additional beaters appear periodically on five percussion instruments, augmenting his sound, all blended with great skill. Noller is a tasteful drummer, playing hard where required, but more often than not relying on instrumentation and polyrhythm to get his point across.
If all music bears the stamp of its inspiration then the trick to a performer's success is to take those inspirations and create something new and unique. Noller has succeeded admirably with Music Notes, delivering a very solid debut effort.
We Go; On The Is; Soliba; Dawe; Percussion Interlude; Don't Be Scurred; Music Notes; Small Arms; Speak No Evil.
Jeremy Noller: drums, gyil (7); Dan Loomis: acoustic bass; Jesse Lewis: acoustic guitar; Brian VanArsdale: tenor saxophone; Sam Bathrick: shekere (1, 7), gome (5, 7); Mangue Sylla: djembe (1), sangban (5).
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