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Matt Slocum the New Jersey- based drummer and composer returned to KSDS' Jazz Live on August 6, fronting a potent trio featuring LA heavyweights Josh Nelson on piano and Dave Robaire on bass for an evening of music mostly culled from a soon-to-be-released disc Black Elk's Dream.

Opening "A Blues," with stuttering, hyperactive drums over the sonorous bass of Robaire, Nelson made it all come to life with his florid yet lyrical commentary. Slocum embarked on a quiet exposition that never lacked fire or internal logic.

A ballad in the ECM vein, "Jacaranda," followed with Robaire stating the melody in the thumb position, while the gentle swish of Slocum's brushes kept the motion flowing. Nelson's deeply melodic solo brought shimmering cymbals and tom-tom agitation as offset dialog.

The late Mulgrew Miller's "Promethean," began as an intense, polyrhythmic burner that swung mightily, while "Yerazel," grooved with the more restrained lilt of Bill Evans, circa 1961. "Passaic," featured a raw, primal groove fueled by a symphony of rim-shots and a wicked ostinato.

Nelson's swinging aesthetic over Robaire's protean walk illuminated "Days of Peace," yielding a concise and propulsive all -brushes feature from the leader, whose soft mallets also set the stage for a lush, pastoral reading of "For Alin," another pensive ballad.

By contrast, "Portraits," swung like a horse thief in the Wild West, motoring on Slocum's intricate ride cymbal pings which inspired effusive repetitions from Nelson, and a fleet solo with multiple twists and turns from Robaire.

Finishing off with "Black Hills," from the new album, Slocum set an eerie atmosphere with a cymbal wash rubato leading into a dark ostinato and a rhythmically intense Nelson spot followed by a concluding solo of muffled explosions.

Excellent stuff, indeed.

Photo by Michael Oletta

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