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Matt Slocum: Portraits

Mark F. Turner By

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Matt Slocum's multicolored traps—at times forceful or delicate, creatively painting varied tempos with the essence of swing—define the drummer's debut, Portraits. Hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota, Slocum's introduction carries forward the torch of patriarchs Max Roach and Elvin Jones amongst others, but he also carves out his own rhythmic patterns with young contemporaries such as Eric Harland and Johnathan Blake.

Slocum is joined by equally distinguished peers: award-winning pianist Gerald Clayton, whose own debut, Two-Shade (ArtistShare, 2009), was well received; and resolute bassist Massimo Biolcati, a longtime associate of guitarist Lionel Loueke. Portraits is mostly a trio outing, with special guest saxophonists Walter Smith III, Jaleel Shaw and Dayna Stephens, all noteworthy young voices, appearing on a couple of tracks.

Slocum presses forward with scintillating new material that has emotion and drive, unveiling nuanced charts like the stylish "Cambria," whose melody is suffused with a swinging glow. The trio's communication is palpable—each player's effervescence supporting and lifting each other and the music to higher grounds. But fertile soil is also tilled to great effect on the cover of Duke Ellington's "Daydream," where Smith plays with a deep tone, like an old soul from times past, and where Slocum's cymbal and mallet touches are simply haunting.

"Seven Stars" shifts with ease between heated modality and cool, marked by ubiquitous drums, torrential horns salvos and complexity touching sweet melodism to create one of the recording's best pieces. The remainder of the set follows form, including "Illusions and Delusions," featuring Stephens' tenor providing warmth, and "Avenida del Paraiso," with Biolcati's quaking bass and Slocum's spidery traps creating an intricate web for Clayton to navigate.

Present day jazz is clearly not stagnate in the very good hands (and sticks) of Matt Slocum—a young drummer who plays with empathy and verve.


Track Listing: Homage; Cambria; Daydream; Shadows; For Alin; Seven Stars; Portraits; Illusions and Delusions; Avenida del Paraiso.

Personnel: Gerald Clayton: piano; Massimo Biolcati: bass; Matt Slocum: drums; Walter Smith III: tenor saxophone; Jaleel Shaw: alto saxophone; Dayna Stephens: tenor saxophone.

Title: Portraits | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Chandra Records

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