Monday, April 9, 2012

Ben Riley Grown Folks Music Sunnyside 2012

Street Date 04/24/12

The piano less quartet is a rare breed, at least one that works. Seventy eight year young Ben Riley has the format down cold. Riley was the anchor for Thelonious Monk's rhythm section in the 1960's and now this esteemed drummer works his 4tet without a harmonic net with a lineup including esteemed bassist Ray Drummond, the ever consistent Wayne Escoffery on tenor sax and two guitarists in Avi Rothbard and Freddie Bryant. This formidable 4tet catches a groove on seven tunes from the Monk playbook and remind us that no matter the age - swing is king!

Monk's "Friday The 13th," "Teo" along with "LuLu's Back In Town" all swing in solid but varying degrees of 4/4 and then toss in the subtle but elegant nuance of Riley's brush work on the beautiful ballad "A Weaver Of Dreams" and this is music that transcends genre. In the liner notes Wayne Escoffery stated the following:  

“Whenever I have the opportunity of playing with Ben Riley, I am reminded why I fell in love with this music we call Jazz in the first place...the groove.” Wayne Escoffery.

I refuse to join in the pointless argument of renaming a genre that has served the world well for over sixty years. (this music we call "jazz") I do deeply respect the opinions of first rate artists like Escoffery. My philosophy being if you order a piece of fish are you more concerned with the name of the lake where it was caught or how good it tastes? Even most casual listeners are aware of the historical implications of jazz including the roots and development from the very beginning to our current state of paralysis by analysis.

Initially inspired by drummers Roy Haynes and Art Blakey, there is a zen like less is more approach from Riley. A lyrical drummer that is far more than a human metronome but a drummer with an innate ability to not just own the pocket but be the pocket.

Easily another 5 Star release from Sunnyside!

Tracks: Friday The 13th; Laura; Teo; Without A Song; A Weaver Of Dreams; LuLu's Back In Town; If Ever I Would Leave You.

Personnel: Ben Riley: drums; Ray Drummond: bass; Wayne Escoffery: tenor saxophone; Avi Rothbard: guitar (4,5,7); Freddie Bryant: guitar (2,3,6).