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Chris Massey: Vibrainium

Dan Bilawsky By

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A tight, two horn front-line, strong solo personalities, an aggressive—yet flexible—rhythm section and first-rate compositions are all part of the package on drummer Chris Massey's Vibrainium. From the first notes of the album-opening "Galactus" to the end of "Mr. Twilight," Massey demonstrates a take-no-prisoners attitude and a willingness to explore different avenues of music with great attention to detail and a good balance between explosive, raw energy and musical restraint.

The aforementioned "Galactus" starts off with a rim-dominated, high-energy groove in seven, melding with David Ostrem's catchy bass line. This provides an exciting rhythmic undercurrent as the horn players move through the head. Pianist Evgeny Lebedev leads the parade of soloists and trumpeter Donald Malloy follows. Malloy starts off with some oddly angular lines and bent notes in the lower register, building power as his solo continues. Saxophonist Benjamin Drazen brings some fire into the music—as the band shifts gears and moves to a swing feel in four—but the familiar bass riff returns before Massey dives into his Elvin Jones-influenced, avalanche-of-a-solo.

While Malloy's "Smooth" is a calmer ride, it never comes close to the glossy style of music bearing its name. A relaxed swing feel dominates this song but the intensity returns for an explosive trio take on Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge." Massey's muscular, up-tempo swing eggs Drazen on and, though Ostrem solos with great skill and provides solid rhythmic support, the most exciting moments occur when it's just drums and saxophone. "Chango"—a short tom solo with a tribal-vibe to it—is in the spirit of Art Blakey's African-rooted solo drum work. While this brief episode cleanses the palette and demonstrates another side of Massey's personality, he isn't one to hog the spotlight and Chick Corea's "Windows" is a showcase for Lebedev's piano work.

Lebedev's piano lines and Massey's subtle cymbal work come together in a hypnotic fashion on the title track. While most of the soloists build from a calm state to a more turbulent place of personal expression—underscored with a crescendo of cymbal explosions from Massey—a moody cloud of sound still manages to hover over "Vibrainium." Drazen's brazen soprano work overlaps with Malloy's trumpet when the song reaches its apex of intensity but the band quickly dials things down near songs end. Drazen's "Mr. Twilight"—a fast, swinging vehicle with a fantastic piano solo from Lebedev—ends with the same burning musical passion that's displayed at nearly every moment on Vibrainium.

Track Listing: Galactus; Smooth; Inner Urge; Chango; Windows; Vibrainium; Mr. Twilight.

Personnel: Donald Malloy: trumpet; Benjamin Drazen: alto saxophone and soprano saxophone; Evgeny Lebedev: piano; David Ostrem: bass; Chris Massey: drums.

Title: Vibrainium | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Self Produced


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