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I have a real fondness for percussion-based albums. Art Blakey's Drums Around The Corner and The African Beat, not to mention Sabu's Palo Congo, have a quirkily distinctive place in my collection. There is a certain unspoken challenge assumed in making a percussion album. The artist sets out to prove just how musical, for lack of a better word, his or her instrument is. They assert the primacy of the beat, eschewing the clutter of horns or strings.
So I was excited to receive Strike Force by the Thurman Barker Percussion Quintet. I was even more pleased to hear the contents of the album, which are endlessly inventive and involving. The quintet plays everything from drums to vibes, marimbas, and xylophones. The layering of instruments makes for a fascinatingly spacious depth of sound, with the rolling thunder of tympanis bouncing chattering xylophones off their back. This is the type of music that is equally enthralling whether pumping from a turned up stereo system or played back on headphones, where you can hear the intricacies of all the moving parts.
Strike Force is an endlessly shifting and spinning album that never slows down enough for monotony to catch it. Just when the band gets locked pounding out a groove, an arresting theme emerges, sending them off to new vistas. The disc is a tour de force of imagination, combining power and finesse in equal measure.
Track Listing: Prologue: Marimba Solo; A Rise; Third World Solution; Trap City; Hi Hat Heaven; Jinks;
Third World Solution; Manhattan Junction; Third World Solution; Rise And Shine; Cymbalist
And Tom; A Drummers Playground; Tympani Madness.
Personnel: Brian Carrott: vibes, marimba, tom toms; Eli Fountaine: marimba, tympani, cowbell, bass
drum; Wilson Moorman: xylophone, tympani, tom toms; Ray Mantilla: bongo drums, congo
drums, gong; Thurman Barker: trap drums, marimba, tympani, tom toms.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.