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EJ Strickland: The Undying Spirit

C. Michael Bailey By

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Drummer Enoch Jamal Strickland belongs to a technically brilliant and forward-thinking group of young musicians that include multi-reedist Sharel Cassity, vocalist/trombonist Natalie Cressman, and violinist/vocalist Nora Germaine. These musicians prove that youth is not wasted on the young. Strickland, New School-educated, is a veteran of The Ravi Coltrane Quartet, The Marcus Strickland Quartet and Trio, and The Russell Malone Quartet. He recently provided the drumming firepower for Manuel Valera's uniformly fine Live at Firehouse 12 (Mavo Records, 2015).

Strickland debuted as a leader with 2009's In This Day (Strick Music). He has taken his time producing his sophomore effort, The Undying Spirit. He opens the disc like any self-respecting drummer-leader should, with an extended percussion introduction with one of the most potent back-beats one can hear. "Ride" is propelled by Strickland and bassist Linda Ho who seems to be everywhere at once. Joining Strickland is his twin brother, Marcus, who fills the tenor-soprano chair of this reeds-heavy quintet.

Strickland's composing is streamlined, with flowing logical lines of melody. "For My Home Folks" is a ballad delicately composed with a muted throb flowing beneath the extensive head. "Tune for S.C" is equally serpentine with a softly-lined head and soloing. The single non-original is the late Cedar Walton's "Hindsight." Strickland's most forward-thinking drumming is saved for this piece. His deft cymbal work fills all available space, recalling a young Tony Williams or Lenny White. Now there is some company to keep.

Track Listing: Ride; For My Home Folks; Transcendence; Ballad for All Mankind; Hindsight; Bomba for Leel and Max; Midnight’s Clearing; A Dance for Mojo’s Return; tune for S.C.; Impromptivity.

Personnel: EJ Strickland: drums; Jaleel Shaw: alto saxophone; Marcus Strickland: tenor & soprano saxophones; Luis Perdomo: piano; Linda Ho: bass.

Title: The Undying Spirit | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced

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