Too often drummers have been relegated as merely providers of a background beat. Perhaps its the pervasive rock/pop mindset that has made us consider drums as merely metronomic ground layering, something that can be outsourced to the right computer. Will Calhoun‘s latest foray into jazz has shown us that the drum stool can still be a driver’s seat, one that he uses to leave his mark on a well-textured and adroitly performed album.
The ethereal, trumpet-driven intro to the first track, “Brother Will” might make one wonder just where the real, Living Colour version of Will Calhoun is. It’s only a matter of seconds before a “Wipe Out”-style drum break lets you know. This type of energy and aggressive character is utilized throughout the album, giving it an unmistakable drive. The rhythmic nature often bleeds into the other instruments, such as the guitar on “Afrique Kan’e” or the bass in “King Tut Strut.” Calhoun’s influence is also seen in his interplay with the other musicians throughout, his collaboration with the keyboardists being most notable.
The propulsive nature of Calhoun’s style reaches to his treatments of other musicians’ compositions. He injects some vivacity into Coltrane‘s “Naima” and Cole Porter‘s “Love for Sale.” While it does change the character of the songs, its done in a tasteful way. Calhoun never completely reallocates the tune, but instead adds his own perspective on it. His version of Wayne Shorter‘s “Etcetera” is most true to the original and maybe falls a little flat because the listener expects something different. These songs, in addition to the rock-influenced original compositions such as “Dorita,” bring a healthy diversity to the track listing.
Calhoun and the other performers provide variety, energy, and focus on an album that is mostly enjoyable. At times it can be a little too smooth and the solos aren’t necessarily groundbreaking. Additionally, the final track, “Love’s Parody” has a lyric element that doesn’t quite fit with the character of the record. Overall, though, there is more than enough to like on this ride that Calhoun is piloting.