NPR : Fresh Air

Filed Under:

Tyshawn Sorey: Making 'Oblique' Patterns Move

Play associated audio

It bugs Tyshawn Sorey that drummers don't get enough credit as composers, as if rhythm was the only thing they understood about music. That helps explain why Sorey's first two albums cut against expectations. They're studies in the slowly changing colors of long tones and sustained harmonies, a music of quietude and sudden disruptions. But his new album, Oblique — I, is mostly the kind of rollicking band album you'd expect from a powerhouse drummer. His melodies are complex and full of surprises, but often light on their feet.

Leading by example, Sorey is helping to heal an old rift in contemporary jazz, between musicians for whom swinging is everything and those also interested in other kinds of rhythmic subtleties and complications. His quintet/quartet — with saxophonist Loren Stillman, pianist John Escreet, guitarist Todd Neufeld and bassist Chris Tordini — plays twisty, turny rhythms that surge ahead and then fall back, typical of jazz's left flank. But under those zigzag lines, Sorey's drums barrel along like a runaway tractor trailer. He makes those tricky patterns move.

On Oblique — I, the rhythms and melodic contours in one piece may come back transformed in another, giving the program a sense of unity. As a drummer, Sorey is a hardcore swinger who doesn't swing in the usual way; doesn't lay down a steady dang-dang-d'di-di-dang on his ride cymbal. His drum sound is drier and earthier, if no less driving.

Oblique — I isn't all slam-bam. Some pieces run a little long; half exceed seven minutes. There are a couple of quieter ones, as well as a composition for solo alto, indebted to one of Sorey's mentors, saxophonist Anthony Braxton.

The 30-ish or younger players in Sorey's band came up long after the 1980s outbreak of hostilities between traditional and forward-looking players. As is often the case, an older generation's feud looks increasingly pointless over time, given how much the warring camps always had in common. That's how it goes in jazz: Dixielanders and swing musicians used to put each other down, then went on to share stages for decades. The same thing happened with swing musicians and beboppers, and boppers and the first wave of free players. There are no real feuds in jazz anymore. We all can just get along.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Comic-Con Fans Continue The Epic Battle Between Science And Fiction

Fans of science fiction have long wrestled with the question of just how much science should be in their fiction. Advocates of different approaches met at San Diego's Comic-Con.
NPR

Scraped, Splattered — But Silent No More. Finally, The Dinner Plate Gets Its Say

Instagram is the Internet's semi-obsessive, borderline-creepy love letter to food. But behind every great meal is a plate doing a pretty-OK job. So a comedian made an Instagram to celebrate plates.
NPR

Leaked Democratic Party Emails Show Members Tried To Undercut Sanders

Just days before the Democratic National Committee convention gets underway, WikiLeaks releases almost 20,000 emails among DNC staff, revealing discussions of topics from Bernie Sanders to the media.
NPR

Making The Cloud Green: Tech Firms Push For Renewable Energy Sources

Few people can demand what kind of electricity they get. But Microsoft and Facebook, which operate huge, power-hungry data centers, are trying to green up the electricity grid with their buying power.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.