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LAJC Artist Beat: Matt Slocum Trio CD Release @ Blue Whale, Los Angeles, CA, Thursday 10/13

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New York drummer and former Angelino Matt Slocum moved to New York in 2007, three years after graduating from USC, where he studied with Peter Erskine among others, and the influence of his former mentor can be heard throughout Slocum's latest offering, After the Storm. À la Erskine, Matt's playing has elements that link traditional jazz drumming with what approaches symphonic percussion techniques, with precise and clean strokes, thematic organization of sound and texture, and an reactive ability to seamlessly change what he is doing on the drum set without affecting the groove or the contextual nature of the song. Slocum has a lot of subtle savvy on his instrument, but he also swings hard and artfully picks his spots to really pop. Joining Matt on this record are pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Massimo Biolcati, friends from his SoCal days who, like Slocum, have established themselves as belonging to the latest group of young musicians to emerge from the bubbling, churning energy that defines the New York jazz scene.

The selections from After the Storm are, like Slocum's playing, an adept amalgamation of color and rhythm, with lyrical originals and smart arrangements of other works. His faithful treatment of Ravel's La Vallée des Cloches (from the evocative piano suite Miroirs) is a shining example of artistic expression in jazz. The ballads When Love Is New, It's Easy to Remember, and the title track waltz After the Storm have an urgent poignancy reminiscent of Evans without any direct reference to him. If anything, Clayton's sensitivities on these pieces seem to reflect those of John Taylor, the great pianist from England who played on Erskine's earlier trio recordings, and one can guess that including the Cole Porter standard Everything I Love was a direct homage to Erskine's version on his beautiful 1993 ECM record You Never Know. Unlike Taylor, however, Clayton's extensive repertoire ranges from the sublime to the stupefying, his Peterson-esque technique flashing on The Catalyst and Pete's Place, his gospel chops peeking through on Passaic, with a hint of Mehldau on Jacaranda. Gerald has evolved dramatically since his youthful days in the Clayton Brothers (led by his uncle Jeff on sax and father John, the esteemed bassist and educator), with an increasingly developed modernity to complement his exceptional foundation in the history of jazz piano. Gerald has made the treacherous leap from prodigy to seasoned player in the prime of his career, becoming one of the more exciting pianists of his generation. Along with Biolcati's deft accompaniment on bass, the trio demonstrates a unity of purpose that belies their long history, first as college buddies and now as professional colleagues.

It's a shame that this great band isn't here together in Los Angeles to demonstrate their works, but Matt has assembled two fine replacements for his trio. Pianist Danny Grissett, like Slocum, is traveling from New York back to Los Angeles, the place of his upbringing and education. Having done quite well for himself on the other coast, playing with the likes of Tom Harrell, Jim Rotundi, and young drumming sensation Marcus Gilmore, Grissett will have a welcome homecoming on Thursday. There are not enough superlatives to attribute to L.A.'s own Darek Oles, perhaps the best bassist on the West Coast and certainly the best to come from his native Poland, where he should be hailed as one of the greatest improvisers from that country since Chopin.

Blue Whale as of late has been a direct portal to the jazz scene in New York, importing acts such as Jonathan Kreisberg, Donny McCaslin, Steve Coleman, Dave Binney, Uri Caine, Alan Ferber, and many others who are part of an impressive and growing who's who list. It couldn't have happened at a better time, and let's hope there are other potential club owners who are taking notice of what's happening there, for having even two or three more clubs like Blue Whale would go a long ways towards finally having a viable modern jazz scene in Los Angeles. On Thursday you can witness the continuing evolutionary process to that end. —Gary Fukushima, Los Angeles Jazz Collective

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