The Brotherhood of the Drum
November 17-18, 2004
Tractor Tavern, Seattle
The Brotherhood of the Drum was presented at the Tractor Tavern on November 17 & 18 as part of the 2004 Ballard Jazz Festival. With a theme of "let the drummers have some!," the concept was fraternity and variety of which the sold- out evenings featured plenty. Index The Byron Vannoy Trio The John Bishop Group Michael Shrieve and Tangletown The Gregg Keplinger Trio Matt Jorgensen +451 Matt Cameron and Friends Wednesday, November 17 The Byron Vannoy Trio
The Byron Vannoy Trio, featuring organist Joe Doria, guitarist Chris Spencer, and Vannoy on the drums, started off the evening. The group was swinging, loose and relaxed, at times dropping into a funk groove, not too hard-hitting, not heavy listening, but solid and in the pocket. Vannoy's time keeping was excellent with consistent inside fills complimenting good solos by Doria and Spencer with no playing outside of the musical construct. The group seemed comfortable on stage and that was apparent in their look and feel. Spencer's guitar playing was tasteful, never stretching out too much, very pleasant while Doria's organ maintained an undertone and current that kept the group tight. Vannoy's playing was heated, the vibe was warm, and he seemed to be focused on swinging and heating things up without getting too heavy while playing mostly straight time with the hi-hat staying steady.
Vannoy has gotten a reputation as an avant-garde drum-mer and percussionist for his recordings and performances with the likes of Leo Smith and Greg Sinibaldi's Frieze of Life, but there was none of that here. Frieze of Life doesn't exactly showcase Vannoy's talent and abilities as a jazz drummer either. This is mostly due to the fact that Vannoy, as well as the rest of the musicians in Sinibaldi's group, are playing from charts with some room for improvisation, but nothing like there is with a good, swinging jazz trio like this one.
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The John Bishop Group
The John Bishop quintet started out with guitarists Dave Peterson and Rick Mandyck trading solos in the opening number with drummer Bishop blazing a pan-Latin groove. This group was swinging hard their entire set with the guitarists riffing, fast but tasteful, with the first tune ending by fading out quickly. The second tune began with a drum solo then the guitars came in loud, both of them, in a raucous, swinging hard-bop jam on Coltrane's "Resolution." Mandyck solos then Thomas Marriott on flugelhorn, Peterson comes in more subdued and the band picks up steam with Bishop soloing against Jeff Johnson's acoustic bass. A groove sets in and the guitars come back in loud pulling on the rhythm, taking the music outside, then bringing the song to a close.
The third song, bassist Jeff Johnson's "Beijing," starts slowly, out with guitar fades -a kind of odd harmony with the drums soloing against it. A slow melody starts in and then the piece takes off into a fast bop with Marriott soloing hard and the guitarists playing abstract chord progressions. It slows down to almost no time played at all then the music takes off into a fast bop again that breaks down into a rock groove with the guitarists soloing loudly, their sustain taking the rhythm outside, breaking it down into a bass solo. The group tears briefly into fast bop then breaks down to a rubato statement of the melody with the drums soloing against it, and the bass brings the piece to a close. The band closed with their take on the great tenor saxophonist Jim Pepper's "Witchi-Tai-To." Entering pensively with Mandyck's light guitar work, Bishop starts in with medium tempo cymbal work, the flugelhorn solos with the guitars in support slowly building to a guitar tour- de-force. Dave Peterson swings, cutting loose and the music soars as group intensity increases and the time breaks into a solid backbeat.
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Michael Shrieve and Tangletown
Tangletown was funky, a Latin street sound, rocking hard with congas, a vocalist, and two guitarists playing hard melodies. Guitarist Danny Godinez solos with his wah-wah, the vocals kick in with street rhythms and drummer Shrieve plays a hard back beat. The guitars pick up a Middle East flavor and the music drives into chaos. Medium tempo Latin mambo jamming, the sound is Santana-esque with the organ soloing and Godinez texturing with feedback. The vocals sing "baila mi cha-cha" as the mambo picks up tempo and Godinez solos, fast and hard, funky, killing the place, then the band moves nicely back to a medium tempo chorus as Godinez, on fire, keeps wailing. As the band starts an up-tempo groove with Godinez playing wah-wah and Johnny Conga's timbales soloing against the vocals, Godinez rips into a solo playing triplets up and down the neck of his guitar. The groove is solid, and the band is tight.
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Thursday, November 18
The Gregg Keplinger Trio
"Not show tunes" was the phrase that came to mind when witnessing this spectacle. It started out slow with no set agenda, only the possibility of synchronicity. Guitarist Chris Pugh and saxophonist Michael Monhart came in together with Keplinger's driving percussive undercurrent on his set of Ludwig stainless steel drums with his own heavy hand crafted steel snare. Pugh stroked the neck of his vintage Gibson Les Paul with a drum stick for awhile then reality hit somber, sobering, Pugh was out. Was he ever in? Pugh starts picking the lower registers with bent strings in abstraction as Keplinger's playing flows like chunks of concrete being ripped up out of a parking lot. Demolition isn't the word, it's renew-al. Urban renewal. Pugh's guitar rips at the concrete and he and Keplinger are crushing it into gravel. Monhart screams his way into the melee and things begin to move like the melting of a glacier. Keplinger roars against Monhart's improvised melody as Pugh strums chords, changes chords, mutes chords, and the glacier begins to flow like the earth in transition, louder until the concrete image is destroyed by the passage of time. Keplinger hammers forward; after pushing the time to its limits he stops, pulls out a bag of hand-made cymbals and junk percussion and starts giving the instruments to the audience telling them to participate. This included one guy keeping people on edge by playing a beer bottle with a stick. And the trio blew its way into another "song" pushing the time way past its limit, but the Tractor's audience appreciated it.
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Matt Jorgensen +451
From their first tune 451 was in overdrive swinging hard with Ryan Burns' Fender Rhodes piano adding an electric flavor to an otherwise acoustic ensemble. The band was tight playing over a solid backbeat on one piece followed by an upbeat fusionesque tune that transitioned into a Latin groove on the next. Drummer Matt Jorgensen maintained a consistent driving swing with Mark Taylor's saxophone and the electric piano layering over the top of Phil Sparks' bass. Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter," a song that has become an old standard for this group, started with its familiarly haunting electric piano intro with Jorgensen and Sparks laying down a solid rock groove. Taylor lays out the main melody of the piece, lyrical from the introduction, and the bass and drums take it down with the keys soloing heavily then Burns takes the piece outside with distortion reminiscent of a 1975 Zeppelin live gig that in another time would compliment Robert Plant's wailing vocals and Jimmy Page's heavy guitar feedback...then 451's groove kicks back in. The sax solos alto over the rock background fluidly within the framework of the piece as they head into a crescendo then it is back to the keys-only intro as the sax lays back in with No Quarter's melody and the group locks in with a rock groove to take it out and end it suddenly. "Hope Part One" from the group's most recent release began with Phil Sparks showcasing his bowing talents on the acoustic bass then, with keys and brushes complimenting, Taylor comes in with a light melody, vivid tone over .owing rhythm. The groove picks up and it becomes increasingly apparent that the important thing to these guys is the music driven by their skills and abilities without anyone in the group showboating. The set was drawn to a close with a high energy version of Les McCann's "Compared To What" that featured the guest work of vocalist Paul Moore.
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Matt Cameron and Friends
The music started light with the group easing into it, Ryan Burns' chords on his Fender Rhodes piano prominent, fast grooves with partial swing. Drummer Matt Cameron's trademark bass drum accents and dexterity developed and honed doing hard time with rock bands Soundgarden and Pearl Jam caught the group up in the intensity and power of his driving rhythm. The organ laid in hard giving way to Cameron's solos, Geoff Harper's acoustic bass playing distorted arco pushing the music out in waves. Burns opened a number that he wrote with ambient organ that picked up in intensity as Cameron complimented with a thunderous undercurrent. Harper's bowing screaming arco complimented Burns' chord changes, and the group was outside of any musical construct, the intensity building into an eruption with no rhythm, no framework. The rhythm starts with the band in 3/4, Cameron hits hard then takes it down as Harper keeps solid time. As Cameron stated, Monk is the influence here. Harper's bass grooves and swings, Cameron's time is unyielding, but Burns' organ takes the music out into the unknown and creates an atmosphere of uncertainty. This is what made the group's musical improvisations work. At the end they played "Highway Star" by Deep Purple.