Tony Deangelis: Tony Deangelis: Everybody's Song

Victor L. Schermer By

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Deangelis' performance suggests a breakthrough, expanding the range of interpretation of the drummer. He provides some of the most texturally rich playing you are likely to hear from a percussionist.
Tony Deangelis
Everybody's Song Volumes 1 & 2
TAJ Records

The key word for this CD is passion, and the driving force behind it is drummer Tony Deangelis. He proves himself to be a creative talent with a fierce dedication to self-expression. Together with Ralph Bowen on reeds, Jim Ridl on piano, and Matthew Parrish on bass, Deangelis sustains an ambience of excitement and mutuality that is reminiscent of the iconic John Coltrane quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones during their Impulse years in the early 1960's. At the same time, Deangelis demonstrates his own formidable talent on drums in ways that make plain his ability to push the artistic envelope.

Regarding technique, Deangelis' biography says he "incorporates the rolling triplets of Elvin Jones, the space used by Jon Christensen, and hard-driving time of Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette. All this is true, but my sense is that on this disc, Deangelis is also striving to expand an evolving direction for jazz percussion. The first major revolution in jazz drumming occurred in the 1930's, with the use of the cymbals rather than the bass drum to sustain the beat and rhythm for the group. (This change accompanied the shift from swing to bebop, although it was initiated before that.)

A later revolution, now in progress, places an emphasis on the musical tonalities of the drums and accessories (chimes and so on), rather than percussive effect. That is, the sounds and timbres take their full place in the musicality, rather than being secondary to the rhythmic propulsions. Elvin Jones took a step in this direction, placing drums as musical instruments alongside the horns. With Jones, the drums didn't just carry the rhythm, they also conveyed a sonority and a feeling. The drummer Ronnie Burrage, heard with Art Farmer some years ago at Sweet Basil in New York, impressed as going in such a direction as well. There are many others coming into this new style of playing.

Deangelis is taking this important and exciting trend to the next level. On this CD, all of the group carry the intense rhythm. This frees up Deangelis to join the group fully as an instrumentalist seeking his own expression at all times, and not only in his solos. He uses the sustained sounds of his cymbals, tom-toms, snares and so on to tell a story and create meaning, the way that the best horn players do. His performance on this album suggests a breakthrough, expanding the range of interpretation of the drummer. Deangelis provides some of the most texturally rich playing you are likely to hear from a percussionist.

From another standpoint, the album offers the equivalent of two nightclub sets (Volumes I and II), each with varied standards and originals, ballads and up-tempo tracks, and weaves them into a fabric of energetic and diverse themes and variations. The energy persists from start to finish, even in the quiet, reflective moments of the ballads. Ralph Bowen's post-Coltrane style sets the stage for this Trane trip atmosphere.

The flavor of the album is exemplified on "Buenos Aires, a Parrish original, which starts out as a laid back, reflective, contemporary ballad, but which, like most of the tracks on this album, increases in intensity and then breaks out into a swinging mode. Bowen approaches Trane's sheets of sounds in his rapid runs and also replicates some of the breathless staccato syncopations and wailing upper register sounds of the later Trane. Ridl's solo emphasizes driving propulsion with interesting rhythmic changes set forth in a systematic way. Deangelis takes a cue from him and comes in with some fireworks of his own. The piece ends with a kind of pounding dinosaur or cro-magnon walk (a drunken tango in Buenos Aires?) by the group en masse.

Deangelis' interpretive drumming is best heard in his own tune, "Takin' Off, which begins with a dark, brooding drum solo, exemplifying his lucid use of the tonalities of the tom-toms and cymbals. Gradually, the solo takes on the ruddy colors of war and conflict, after which the ensemble goes into a straight-ahead up-tempo with Parrish signing in on cue, followed by Bowen on soprano saxophone. Ridl does some excellent comping, and then offers an extended, lively, swing solo, with some head-pounding drumming by Deangelo. Bowen's solo uses interval jumps in the manner of Coltrane's "Giant Steps. The piece then levels off and comes in for a landing with Bowen's recapitulation of the melody.

In contrast with the forceful intensity of the above tracks, the ballads are performed sensitively, fully exploiting the interpretive variations inherent in the melodies. Ridl, one of the most masterful and resilient pianists in the business, makes Bernstein's "Some Other Time entirely his own with repeated choruses that take the tune into shifting moods and laconic images. Bernstein would likely have deeply appreciated Ridl's exploitation of this ethereal song's many possibilities for reflection and recollection.

Michel Legrand's "The Summer Knows is the theme song from the nostalgic film, The Summer of '42. The piece begins with repetitive tight chords by Ridl, followed by Bowen's haunting flute solo. Deangelis pulls out all stops in cymbal work over Bowen's solo, while Ridl's piano work brings out the passion inherent in the film's youthful protagonist's initiation into manhood. Bowen follows up with a joyful flute solo, concluding with a recapitualation of the melody. Like Bernstein, Legrand would probably be very happy with the depth of this group's interpretation of his classic theme. It's such a pleasure to hear ballads played by musicians who apprehend the underlying meanings and imagery suggested by the melodies and the lyrics.

"Little Waltz by Ron Carter, is a finessed blues-en-Paris ballad given a fine interpretation in solos by Bowen, Ridl, Bowen, Parrish and Bowen once more, with a beautiful cadenza backed by Deangelis' cymbals.

From a listener's perspective, we have here an album that provides the full feeling of two jazz sets at a night club, and one that amply suggests how the best musicians can drive and inspire one another through their playing. Matt Balitsaris' tight mixing highlights this ambience. From the drummers' standpoint, we have an example of one of their kind pushing the limits of the musical potential of the instrument—drummers will find this album a notable source of inspiration and ideas. Congratulations to Tony Deangelis on a powerful production.

Tracks: Volume I: Everybody's Song But My Own (K. Wheeler); Long Ago And Far Away (J. Kern; I. Gershwin); Some Other Time (L. Bernstein; B. Comden; A. Green); Takin' Off (T. Deangelis); Buenos Aires (M. Parrish); Volume II: Six-Nix-Quix-Fix (G. Burton); Little Waltz (R. Carter); The Summer Knows (M. Legrand; A. Bergman, M. Bergman); Hail Caesar (M. Parrish)

Personnel: Tony Deangelis: drums; Matthew Parrish: bass; Jim Ridl: piano; Ralph Bowen: flute, soprano and tenor saxophones.

Track Listing

Volume I: Everybody


Tony Deangelis, drums; Matthew Parrish, bass; Jim Ridl, piano; Ralph Bowen, flute, soprano and tenor saxophones

Album information

Title: Tony Deangelis: Everybody's Song | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: TAJ Records


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