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Album Review

Billy Drummond and Freedom of Ideas: Valse Sinistre

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Billy Drummond and Freedom of Ideas: Valse Sinistre
As one of the world's foremost jazz drummers, Billy Drummond manages to keep busy—so much so that Valse Sinistre, recorded in November 2021, is his first album as leader in more than twenty-five years, following the critically acclaimed Dubai from 1996. This time around, Drummond is at the helm of his Freedom of Ideas quartet: Micah Thomas on piano; Dezron Douglas on bass; and Dayna Stephens on saxophones.

Even though he is the nominal leader, Drummond doesn't command the spotlight, preferring instead to let his superior timekeeping speak for itself. He solos (briefly) only thrice, on Stanley Cowell's high-stepping "Reconfirmed," drummer Tony Williams' "Lawra" and toward the end of his own composition, "Changes for Trane & Monk." The album embraces five more originals and one standard, David Raksin's memorable "Laura" (as far as can be ascertained, only distantly related to "Lawra"). Carla Bley wrote the diaphanous title waltz, which kindles memories of a long-ago radio series before the advent of television, I Love a Mystery.

With Drummond supervising the rhythm, his colleagues are more than happy to shoulder melodic and improvisatory duties. Thomas and Douglas sparkle whenever called upon, while Stephens is admirable on tenor or soprano sax, on which he alternates. On the flip side, Drummond's choice of material is no more than passable; only "Reconfirmed" leaves more than a fleeting impression. The session gets under way with Jackie McLean's animated "Little Melonae" and continues with Thomas' easygoing "Never Ends" before "Valse Sinistre" and "Laura." Grachan Moncur's fast-paced "Frankenstein" precedes "Changes," Frank Kimbrough's dreamy "Clara's Room," "Reconfirmed" and "Lawra."

In sum, a very good album—how could it not be with Drummond in charge?—that nevertheless lands a measure or two short of excellent, thanks for the most part to ingredients that are by and large appetizing on their own but when blended make a rather garden- variety stew.

Track Listing

Little Melonae; Never Ends; Valse Sinistre; Laura; Frankenstein; Changes for Trane & Monk; Clara’s Room; Reconfirmed; Lawra.

Personnel

Billy Drummond: drums; Dayna Stephens: saxophone; Micah Thomas: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass.

Album information

Title: Valse Sinistre | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Cellar Records

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