Dave Burrell & Billy Martin

Consequences
Amulet Records AMT 022

Proving that there’s improvisational life after popularity, drummer Billy Martin –

famous as one-third of the Medeski Martin & Wood (MMW) jam band – dedicates his spare time to playing in more challenging contexts.

The consequences of that can be a CD like Consequences, a live date which matches the younger drummer (b. 1963), with master pianist Dave Burrell (b 1940). Burrell, whose under-recorded status has been partially rectified recently, treats Martin as an equal, as the two follow different strategies to reach a musical détente.

This is tribute to Woods’ adaptive skills, since Burrell has, since the 1960s, partnered with major stylists including tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp and multi-reedist David Murray, and such distinctive drummers as Andrew Cyrille, Sunny Murray and Bobby Kapp. For his part, Martin showcases more than MMW backbeats here. After all he’s more versatile than he appears, having gigged with aggregations as individual as John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards and John Zorn’s Electric Masada in the past.

Feeling out each others’ musical affiliations, the five selections are less thematic than much of Burrell’s other work that often references earlier jazz styles – Ragtime and Stride as well as Bop and Energy Music – and more abstract than Martin’s MMW affiliation would suggest. If it often seems as if the pianist is thrusting forward musical ideas and the percussionist responding, it’s the nature of the instruments, with the keys traditionally in a dominant position.

With high-frequency run, the older man often spins out a series of cadences and glissandi, moving cross-handed, letting the accents fall where they may and usually improvising allegro. On the first – and at more than 18½ minute – longest track, Burrell not only uses organic patterning to set up a theme, but appends a secondary theme of swiftly contrasting dynamics, extending the line with feathery strokes in the piano’s highest register.

Meantime Martin sounds blunt ratamascues, ratcheting güiro-like scrapes and thwacking bass drum pressure. Treating the cymbals as separate entities, the younger man’s rubato asides leave plenty of space for Burrell’s cascading chord formations.

Throughout the other selections, Martin’s strategies take in syncopated Latinesque rattles as well as Rock-like flams and rebounds and a selection of beats that at one point sound as if they could come from African drums such as djembes or batas. On show elsewhere are shimmering sheet metal-style pulses, extended with nerve beats that reflect the woodenness of the sticks plus a maelstrom of clattering scraped ride cymbals.

Passionately energized by what the drummer produces, Burrell ranges all over the keys, here ruffling them with a feather-light touch, there trickling out disconnected low- frequency patterns and elsewhere layering dynamic clusters that form themselves into an impressionistic, early 19th century frailty. When meeting Martin’s highly rhythmic Africanized pulses however, the pianist’s touch turns hyperkinetic – pummeling two-handed fantasias that superimpose one melody on top of another and end with framed single notes and internal string plucking. Should the rhythm suggest tap dancing then the keyboardists starts to rag the scales.

If the recital does have drawbacks it’s that all of the tracks seem to end rather than come to a conclusion. But perhaps that’s something that can be rectified next time out.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1 .Monsoon 2. New Species 3. Moonbows 4. Suspension 5. Kuliana

Personnel: Dave Burrell (piano); Billy Martin (percussion and drums)