Drori Mondlak and Straight Circle: Wake-Up Call

Phil DiPietro By

Sign in to view read count
Drori Mondlak brings a lot to the table as a drummer/leader. Born to a Polish father and English mother in Mexico City, his family soon moved to London and then New York, where he's remained. Along with this natural assimilation of cultures and rhythms came an infatuation with the drums when he switched over from piano as a teenager, leading to his current enthusiasms, not only for the kit's many colors, timbres and tunings, but its possiblilites for orchestrating melodies as well. Key in his percussive development is a passion for the musical drumming of Joe Morello - so intense that he sought him out as a teacher after completing music school. His resume includes stints with Danny Mixon, Joe Williams, Frank Foster and some great guitarists like Vic Juris and Dave Stryker.

His partners in this project define it: altoist and flautist Karolina Strassmayer , bassist Paul Ramsey and the extraordinary six-string genius of Cary DeNigris . All of these players have, not coincidentally, done time in the band of one of the music's grand masters, Chico Hamilton. DeNigris especially, brings an array of accompanist's and improvisor's gifts to the session. More of a fusionist on his own project (which also includes Ramsey and Mondlak), he's an expert and unique comper that also sports one of jazz guitar's most formidable legato techniques short of Allan Holdsworth. Here, the setting is kinder and gentler contemporary jazz - astute and refined.

The name Straight Circle is meant to emphasize the players speaking straight to the essence of each other, thereby creating a conversational, improvisational circle. It's also a fairly straight -ahead setting. While Mondlak is a chops-laden and sensitive drummer, his brand of athleticism is defined by how lightly he gets what he wants out of the kit, making his drums dance not unlike Morello. Don't get me wrong - Drori's got plenty of octane - it's just that he's an efficient, high horsepower engine pulling along an elegant coupe.

While the small-group aesthetic conveyed by the title is usually apparent, the players aren't bashful about throwing in zest, like DeNigris' combustible tag at the end of Monk's "Evidence" or the distorted bite on his reticulated, blues-laced lines for the title cut. Strassmayer skirts some over- blowing around her super-sweet tone and refined solo ideas on a deservedly long statement on Brubeck's (and Morello's) "In Your Own Sweet Way." Make sure to dig into Ramsey's rapid pizzicato technique as a foil to Drori under this tune's driving, swinging solo sections. On his solo, DeNigris emphasizes a unique clawhammer-like technique on the right hand, which effectuates spinning out rapid-fire arpeggiations of triplet phrases, rising and falling against the rhythm section, before Mondlak's finest solo statement of the set.

When these guys decide to do pretty, they stay very focused, as on the gorgeous ballads "Blackberry Winter," Strassmayer's "Forget Strollin'" and Mondlak's "Maya's Lullabye." Rarely do guitarists go so hyperspeed, yet stay so lyrical as DeNigris does on "Blackberry." This all sets up so nicely against Strassmeyer's lush tone and Ramsey's electric, but very acoustic-sounding lines.

This is yet another exemplary piece of independently released jazz being made today.

Available from Drori Mondlak on the web.

Track Listing: 1.Evidence, 2. No More Darkness, 3. Wake-Up Call, 4. Maya's Lullaby, 5. In Your Own Sweet Way, 6. Like Someone in Love, 7. Blackberry Winter, 8. Forget Strollin', 9. All God's Chillun'Got Rhythm, 10. Greycliff.

Personnel: Drori Mondlak-drums, Cary DeNigris-guitar, Paul Ramsey- bass, Karolina Strassmayer- saxophones, flute

Title: Wake-Up Call | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: DroriDrums Music


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Magnetic" CD/LP/Track Review Magnetic
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 27, 2017
Read "Malamute" CD/LP/Track Review Malamute
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 27, 2017
Read "Resonance" CD/LP/Track Review Resonance
by Troy Dostert
Published: July 15, 2017
Read "Out On The Coast" CD/LP/Track Review Out On The Coast
by Joe Gatto
Published: January 17, 2017
Read "So Nice!" CD/LP/Track Review So Nice!
by Jeff Winbush
Published: August 30, 2017
Read "I Can See Clearly Now" CD/LP/Track Review I Can See Clearly Now
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 7, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.