TERRY GROSS, host: Tyshawn Sorey is one of the most admired young drummers on the East Coast, providing rollicking support to the bands of saxophonists Steve Coleman and Steve Lehman, then making surprisingly quiet music on his own records. Sorey's third album is now out. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says this time, things go a little differently.


KEVIN WHITEHEAD: 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 CD, "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. This is Sorey's tune, "20."


WHITEHEAD: Leading by example, Tyshawn 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, 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.


WHITEHEAD: Pianist John Escreet on Tyshawn Sorey's new CD, where 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.


WHITEHEAD: Saxophonist Loren Stillman, guitarist Todd Neufeld and bassist Chris Tordini. Tyshawn Sorey's "Oblique - I" isn't all slam-bam. Some pieces run a little long. Half of them are over seven minutes. There are a couple of quieter ones, and a composition for solo alto, indebted to one of Sorey's mentors, saxophonist Anthony Braxton.


WHITEHEAD: The 30-ish or younger players in Tyshawn 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.


GROSS: Kevin Whitehead is a jazz columnist for eMusic.com and the author of "Why Jazz: A Concise Guide." He reviewed "Oblique - I" by drummer Tyshawn Sorey on the Pi label. You can download podcasts of our show on our website, freshair.npr.org.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from