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Ron van Stratum: Swingin' In The Swamp

Gina Vodegel By

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It's a generally accepted misconception that those who earn a living as a teacher in the arts must either not be good enough a performer, or are compelled to satisfy a wretched sense of envy, while clipping the wings of very talented students. Some of the stories out there may be true, but drummer/percussionist Ron van Stratum's Swingin' In The Swamp defies all such horror tales. Van Stratum has been a drum teacher since 1993 at The Netherlands' Maastricht Conservatory—recruited immediately after graduation, in fact. Some of his former students have entered the local and regional music scenes successfully and, like their teacher, simply love to travel in wide musical circles as versatile drummers and percussionists—or drum school owners, even. So much, then, for teacher stereotypes.

Van Stratum divides his time between educating students and working with various musicians. His list is impressive, ranging from regional dialect singers to nationally acclaimed pop artists, as well as international jazz giants like Brian Bromberg, John Beasley and Mike Mainieri. Swingin' In The Swamp, his third release as a leader, demonstrates van Stratum's skills as a seasoned and intuitive drummer/percussionist. He has surrounded himself with some of the finest musicians and friends hailing from The Netherlands' southern region, Belgium, Austria and the USA, to see where the flow might take them. Van Stratum and bassist Roman Korolik go way back, and their narrative chemistry serves as a tasty backbone in what can best be described as a colorful tapestry with singular as well as multilateral stitches. It's fusion at its hottest, breathing warmth in a rich approach, with some tracks raw enough for those seeking intricacy and unexpected twists and turns, as in the title track and "Mind The Mosquitos."

The album opens with "Zawinizm," a tribute with a clear conviction to keep the late Joe Zawinul's legacy alive. Van Stratum also pays homage to keyboardists Jim Beard—who graces the album with his presence on four tracks ("Avoiding the Plot," "Nomads Trail," the charming "Little Argument" and "Let's Move")—and Tribal Tech's Scott Kinsey. " Beard's "Ode To The Doo Da Day" features guitarist Jon Herington, with whom the keyboardist shares a recording studio and Steely Dan tours. Kinsey mastered the 11 tracks in a signature and superior manner, while van Stratum took care of all of the sound design, recording, mixing and production—album cover included. He's not just a drummer or percussionist offering danceable beats and infectious rhythms; he offers sonic colors, brings out different, but always warm shades of different places. Despite the many details that call for repeated spins, Swingin' In The Swamp is always a friendly, inviting and never tiresome listen, with fringes of hope.

Swingin' In The Swamp is world fusion with a passion one would not expect to flourish in Holland, but then again, the southern parts of this small country abide by different rules. Van Stratum and his posse simply own them.

Track Listing: Zawinizm; Avoiding the Plot; Swingin' In The Swamp; Ode To The Doo Da Day; Sunrise At The Pyramids; Nomads Trail; Round Trip; Little Argument; Mind The Mosquitos; Heat Factor Seven; Let's Move.

Personnel: Ron van Stratum: drums, percussion, vocoder; Jim Beard: piano, Rhodes and synth (2, 6, 8, 11); Mike Roelofs: piano, rhodes and synth (3, 5, 7, 9-11); Wilbert Kivits: piano, Rhodes and synth (1, 2, 4-10); Roman Korolik: bass (1-8, 10, 11); Henk de Laat: double-bass; Peter Hermesdorf: tenor and soprano sax (1-3, 5-8, 10, 11); Andy Middleton: tenor and soprano sax (9); Berland Rours: guitar (1-3, 6-8); Frank Peeters: guitar (10, 11); Jon Herington: guitar (4); Sam Vloemans: trumpet (3, 8); Nadine Nix: vocals (1, 2, 6, 10).

Title: Swingin' In The Swamp | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Mons Records

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