Press Quotes- (scroll down for full length reviews)
“There are those rare records that cast a spell as soon as the music begins. Black Elk’s Dream is a beautiful dream state of a recording… a band as telepathic as it is gifted… A thoughtful, thematic record that retains its emotional intimacy."
-New York City Jazz Record (April 2014)
"A meticulous, deeply realized work, remarkable not only for its coherence as a single arc but also for its evolving, authentic poignancy… This dreamlike, lyrical, fervent, floating music is capable of erupting in joy or pain."
-JazzTimes (May 2014)
“Slocum served the music with a focus on dynamic micro-detail, which in turn allowed his musicians to say even more. It’s a cerebral concept, one that comes to fruition on Black Elk’s Dream… Like Wayne Shorter’s classic Blue Note albums, Black Elk’s Dream seems to ask questions, leaving the answers open to individual interpretation."
-DownBeat Magazine (July 2014)
“Black Elk's Dream is a sublime interpretation of the visionary Oglala Lakota leader's philosophy, life and times, the melodic sophistication of Slocum's compositions wonderfully realized by his lithe, restless percussion, plus bassist Massimo Biolcati, pianist Gerald Clayton and saxophonists Walter Smith and Dayna Stephens."
-Minneapolis City Pages (April 2014)
"A mature, impassioned postbop set inspired by the legendary Sioux medicine man of the title."
-Time Out New York (April 2014)
“American drummer/composer Matt Slocum has a light touch, a strong melodic pulse and is steadily rising up the New York pecking order. His third album as a leader is an ambitious sax and rhythm set of interconnected themes..." 4 stars
-Jazzwise Magazine UK (May 2014)
“Matt Slocum is an intelligent and intense drummer, he's more interested in telling a story than displaying his "chops." His familiarity with the styles of his fellow musicians breeds freedom instead of predictability as he gives them space and structure to work with… powerful yet subtle music."
-StepTempest (March 2014)
“What sets Matt Slocum apart from other great young jazz drummers of our day, besides his lyricism, restraint and insistence on a clearly defined ensemble sound, is a flair for composition which has earned the St. Paul native a handful of prestigious grants and commissions."
-Minneapolis Star Tribune (April 2014)
"The music unfolds as an elegiac tone poem that sweeps into more visceral inside-out swinging, always pushed by Slocum’s dynamic-but-understated percussive drive."
-Sacramento Bee (April 2014)
“As a followup to his outstanding debut as a leader, Portraits, drummer-composer Matt Slocum settles into a rare telepathy with pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Massimo Biolcati on this enchanting trio outing. A tastefully polyrhythmic drummer with a penchant for melodicism on the kit."
-JazzTimes (November 2011)
“The solid interaction of the trio and the versatility of each musician fill the tracks with life. Layered richness is at the heart of the music."
-Downbeat (December 2011)
"After an auspicious debut in 2009 with Portraits, the drummer-composer continues mining a thoughtful, tastefully tweaked seam in modern jazz on a new trio album After The Storm."
-Los Angeles Times (October 2011)
“Matt Slocum has emerged as one of the great young drummers in New York City, and therefore all of jazz… Slocum clearly places empathy and ensemble eloquence over solo fireworks, with sublime results… Highly recommended!"
-Minneapolis Star Tribune (October 2011)
“The band played together as a trio rather than as three people playing together… Fine writing and an elegant stylist… One to watch out for…"
-Jazzwise (November 2011)
“Richly textured, hard swinging modern jazz."
-Time Out London (October 2011)
“The real thing… Slocum has an expressive, light touch, reminiscent of Paul Motian’s percussive poetry, but Slocum’s lyrical writing has also gained major notice… a serious young talent on the rise."
-Sacramento Bee (October 2011)
“An amazing new album… Slocum has emerged as a star of his generation, a double-threat performer and award-winning composer whose compositions build on the past and expand into the future… After the Storm is what jazz is meant to be."
-New Times SLO (October 2011)
"I am confident After the Storm will remain on my list of favorites for 2011… and simply on my list of favorite piano trios for the foreseeable future. Matt Slocum’s talents as a drummer are undeniable, but his talents as composer and arranger truly set him apart from most of his peers, regardless of instrument."
-Jazz Police (October 2011)
"An inveterate swinger with a brisk, highly interactive touch and a penchant for melodicism (check out his mallets solo on Billy Strayhorn's "Daydream"), drummer Matt Slocum is also a thoughtful composer who sets up his team like a savvy point guard running an offense."
-Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes (May 2010)
“Some of the most exciting piano, bass and drum work you'll hear since E.S.T."
-Jazz Journal (UK, May 2010)
“Matt ‘gets’ Philly Joe Jones and Roy Haynes as good as any other drummer I know, and has managed to infuse his drumming with his own style – the man has found his drumming voice, and at an early age!"
“Slocum is not just a tasteful polyrhythmic drummer, whose subtle use of brushes and mallets brings shading and colour to his playing and who swings whatever the tempo, but also a composer of considerable promise… A debut album of great distinction. You’ll hear new subtleties every time. Thoroughly recommended." ****
-Tony Hall, Jazzwise UK (March 2010)
"One of his generation's most highly regarded drummers ... Matt Slocum is more than a rising star drummer--he is a composer of startling melodic sophistication."
-Andrea Canter, JazzPolice (February 2010)
"This auspicious debut should put Matt Slocum's name firmly on the jazz map."
-Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide (March 2010)
“With this excellent premiere, Slocum steps out of the box as the full package."
-Terrell Kent Holmes, All About Jazz-New York (January 2010)
"It's a thrill to hear Matt's creativity, artistic diversity and sound statements on this wonderful outing of his. I take personal pride in watching his amazing growth, having observed him since his college years. Matt has big ears, huge talent and always plays the sensitivity that everyone experiences in his personality."
“Slocum’s modern tunes and arrangements have a warm patina and nourish the ears. Portraits is an understated gem and Slocum a genuine discovery." ****
-Icon (January 2010)
Portraits reaches #14 on the Jazzweek national jazz radio chart.
"(Slocum) has already developed his own modern style ... this CD has the quality to make him internationally known."
-Hans Bernd-Kittlaus, Kind of Blue Reviews (February 2010)
“Matt Slocum's multicolored traps-at times forceful or delicate, creatively painting varied tempos with the essence of swing define the drummer's debut, “Portraits". Hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota, Slocum's introduction carries forward the torch of patriarchs Max Roach and Elvin Jones amongst others, but he also carves out his own rhythmic patterns with young contemporaries such as Eric Harland and Johnathan Blake... Present day jazz is clearly not stagnate in the very good hands (and sticks) of Matt Slocum-a young drummer who plays with empathy and verve."
-Mark F. Turner, All About Jazz (March 2010)
"A first-class jazz trio."
-Lucid Culture (January 2011)
"Slocum takes chances, and understands how to use the drums as an instrument to provide the right coloration, not just the right beat ... Portraits establishes Matt Slocum as a leader who doesn't just pay lip service to the post-bop tradition, he immerses himself in it in a way that reminds us why we fell in love with that kind of music in the first place."
-somethingelsereviews.com (February 2010)
“An awesome trio."
-Greg Burk, Metaljazz.com (January 2009)
“He's a great drummer, Slocum, with splendid timing, dynamics and ideas. He's a master of the current sense of swing. "
-LA Weekly (March 2010)
"Matt Slocum's debut is filled with good melodies, smart arrangements, strong solos, and great promise ... a rewarding adventure for the listener."
-Richard Kamins, StepTempest (January 2010)
"Slocum's trio conveyed a palpable soul which rendered their heady excursions very listener-friendly."
-The Saratogian (June 2011)
"Listening to Slocum's latest After The Storm you can hear he's particularly gifted, with a melodic approach that really uses different parts of the set, expertly plumbing tension and release."
-Edmonton Journal (February 2012)
"New York jazz drummer/composer Matt Slocum displays subtlety and sophistication on his latest album, "After The Storm," interacting intuitively with pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Massimo Biolcati."
-San Jose Mercury News (February 2012)
"(Slocum"s) playing has elements that link traditional jazz drumming with what approaches symphonic percussion techniques, with precise and clean strokes, thematic organization of sound and texture, and an reactive ability to seamlessly change what he is doing on the drum set without affecting the groove or the contextual nature of the song. Slocum has a lot of subtle savvy on his instrument, but he also swings hard and artfully picks his spots to really pop."
-All About Jazz (October 2011)
"A promising young drummer."
-Los Angeles Times (March 2010)
"There are sophisticated harmonies and simple melodies twisted ever so slightly to tug on the memory. "Shadows" prances atmospherically like a Wayne Shorter tune, and, like many Dave Holland songs, manages the trick of sounding busy and spacious at once. The mood ranges from the simmering sax workout of "Homage" to the gently skewed ballad "For Alin" -- named for Slocum's longtime girlfriend -- to the upward glide of "Seven Stars," a saxophone conversation featuring Jaleel Shaw on alto and Dayna Stephens on tenor ... With reviews like the rave at Allaboutjazz.com -- "Slocum steps out of the box as the full package" -- "Portraits," released on tiny Chandra Records, should enhance his burgeoning reputation among the jazz cognoscenti."
-Britt Robson, Minneapolis Star Tribune (February 2010)
"Slocum unleashed a torrent of polyrhythmic ideas which kicked the trio into high gear... a fascinating glimpse at a young drum force in the making."
-All About Jazz, San Diego, Live Review (September 2010)
"Slocum seems to have a fine touch on the skins, playing with pleasing melodicism, slithery sense of swing, and a keen attention to subtleties, which really shines through his mallet work on Billy Strayhorn's "Daydream." ... The eight Slocum originals that round out the album display a refined, post-bop intelligence ranging from the lush romanticism of "For Alin" to the scintillating "Shadows".
-Rick Mason, Minneapolis City Pages (February 2010)
"Matt Slocum has created a very good CD here. The playing is top notch, and Matt's compositions are very engaging. I recommend!!!" -Alan Pasqua
"Some drummers lead groups that feature their own muscular playing. Matt Slocum, on his debut disc, "Portraits," is more of a colorist and thoughtful composer-leader, although he can certainly pull out all the stops when he wants to."
-Barry Bassis, NY Town & Village (January 2010)
"This is contemporary jazz that delights one's ears."
-Jean-Keith Fagen, Hill Rag (January 2010)
SELECTED FULL-LENGTH REVIEWS/INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES:
JAZZTIMES- (December 2011)
After the Storm
By Bill Milkowski
As a followup to his outstanding debut as a leader, Portraits, drummer-composer Matt Slocum settles into a rare telepathy with pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Massimo Biolcati on this enchanting trio outing. A tastefully polyrhythmic drummer with a penchant for melodicism on the kit (as he demonstrates with mallets on the pensive opener “Jacaranda"), Slocum establishes an intimate, interactive vibe with his mates on these nine tracks. They swing blithely through “The Catalyst," then turn in walking-on-eggshells renditions of “It’s Easy to Remember" and the elegant title track. “Passaic" is a loose three-way conversation, while their politely swinging take on Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love" is strictly old-school. Other highlights include a brilliant arrangement of Maurice Ravel’s “La Vallee des Cloches" and Slocum’s urgently burning closer, “Pete’s Place."
DOWNBEAT- by Jon Ross (December 2011)
After The Storm
On After The Storm, drummer Matt Slocum has embraced the quiet, relatively calm spaces that follow great turbulence. He derives energy from subtlety on his sophomore release, proving that intensity and thrill do not require an artillery of musicians or an outlandish playing style. Most of his music is compact and tightly wound, but he also knows how to cut loose and bang out an aggressive swing beat.
It’s this contrast that gives After The Storm depth. Relegated to a supporting role, Slocum’s drum breaks fit with the music and help shape an aesthetic; he doesn’t get outside of himself, carried away by the need to be showy. The solid interaction of the trio—pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Massimo Biolcati round out the group—and the versatility of each musician fill the tracks with life.
Layered richness is at the heart of the music. Slocum’s bouncy, shifting playing on “The Catalyst," where he switches between a swing beat on the ride to a clicking shuffle played on the edge of his toms, gives the tune a flowing movement. “When Love Is New" and “After The Storm" are built around fragmented melodies that drift along on top of Slocum’s brushwork.
The centerpiece of the album, however, is Slocum’s rendering of “La Vallee Des Cloches," the final movement of Maurice Ravel’s Miroirs solo piano suite. Slocum prods Clayton with easy drum hits, adding depth to the piece. Clayton makes the composition feel a bit like an improvisation, conversing with Slocum’s rolling mallets and Biolcati’s subdued bass.
Slocum has created eight tracks that highlight his compositional intimacy. While his drumming is a key component to the trio’s sound and Slocum’s name is on the marquee, he’s content to let others carry his ideas and simply provide an undercurrent to the music.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ- by Gary Fukushima (October 2011)
After the Storm
New York drummer and former Angelino Matt Slocum moved to New York in 2007, three years after graduating from USC, where he studied with Peter Erskine among others, and the influence of his former mentor can be heard throughout Slocum's latest offering, After the Storm. À la Erskine, Matt's playing has elements that link traditional jazz drumming with what approaches symphonic percussion techniques, with precise and clean strokes, thematic organization of sound and texture, and an reactive ability to seamlessly change what he is doing on the drum set without affecting the groove or the contextual nature of the song. Slocum has a lot of subtle savvy on his instrument, but he also swings hard and artfully picks his spots to really pop. Joining Matt on this record are pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Massimo Biolcati, friends from his SoCal days who, like Slocum, have established themselves as belonging to the latest group of young musicians to emerge from the bubbling, churning energy that defines the New York jazz scene.
The selections from After the Storm are, like Slocum's playing, an adept amalgamation of color and rhythm, with lyrical originals and smart arrangements of other works. His faithful treatment of Ravel's La Vallée des Cloches (from the evocative piano suite Miroirs) is a shining example of artistic expression in jazz. The ballads When Love Is New, It's Easy to Remember, and the title track waltz After the Storm have an urgent poignancy reminiscent of Evans without any direct reference to him. If anything, Clayton's sensitivities on these pieces seem to reflect those of John Taylor, the great pianist from England who played on Erskine's earlier trio recordings, and one can guess that including the Cole Porter standard Everything I Love was a direct homage to Erskine's version on his beautiful 1993 ECM record You Never Know. Unlike Taylor, however, Clayton's extensive repertoire ranges from the sublime to the stupefying, his Peterson-esque technique flashing on The Catalyst and Pete's Place, his gospel chops peeking through on Passaic, with a hint of Mehldau on Jacaranda. Gerald has evolved dramatically since his youthful days in the Clayton Brothers (led by his uncle Jeff on sax and father John, the esteemed bassist and educator), with an increasingly developed modernity to complement his exceptional foundation in the history of jazz piano. Gerald has made the treacherous leap from prodigy to seasoned player in the prime of his career, becoming one of the more exciting pianists of his generation. Along with Biolcati's deft accompaniment on bass, the trio demonstrates a unity of purpose that belies their long history, first as college buddies and now as professional colleagues.
JAZZWISE- November 3, 2011
by Stephen Graham
With the imprimatur of no less a figure than original Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine the 30-year-old Slocum along with pianist Sam Yahel (Joshua Redman Elastic band) and double bassist Massimo Biolcati (Lionel Loueke Trio) the New Jersey-based drummer was playing music from new release After The Storm with highlights including the ballad ‘When Love is New’ written for his girlfriend he told us, and an American Music Center Meet The Composer commission, the brooding ‘La Vallee Des Cloches’ suite.
The band played as a trio rather than as three people playing together, no mean feat in itself, and were at their best when they each played three different time signatures collectively improvising, intersecting in all the right places. It was great to hear Yahel, long haired and hirsute, and not a frequent visitor to London these days, playing piano as he is usually known as an organ player. Musicians who play the organ as well as he does when they play piano, particularly the Pizza's fine Steinway, have great attack when they hit the piano keys and a different sound. I liked his Brahmsian melodic runs, soulful piano licks and fast facility reacting super quickly to chord changes from the bass and brushstrokes from the kit alike. Yahel can improvise spontaneously composing melodies inspired by the head while keeping the harmony interesting.
Biolcati is a marvel. In the summer with Lionel Loueke and Ferenc Nemeth he was on great form, and here particularly on what I assume was at one stage some headwarp clave as well as double time sections his long fingered forays moved off into outergalactic bass space while Biolcati remained as cool as a cucumber. Slocum finished a long but satisfying first set with 'Jacaranda', the first track from After The Storm, inspired by his time living in sunny California. Fine writing and an elegant stylist, a little like the UK’s Josh Blackmore with touches of Jeff Ballard, no wonder Erskine said of Slocum rating him highly: “The man has found his drumming voice, and at an early age". One to watch out for when he returns without a doubt.
JAZZTIMES- by Bill Milkowski (May 2010)
An inveterate swinger with a brisk, highly interactive touch and a penchant for melodicism (check out his mallets solo on Billy Strayhorn’s “Daydream"), drummer Matt Slocum is also a thoughtful composer who sets up his team like a savvy point guiard running an offense, dishing off to such potent soloists as tenor saxophonists Walter Smith III (who shines on “Daydream") and Dayna Stephens (who engages in some fierce exchanges with alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw on the harmonically probing “Seven Stars"). Pianist Gerald Clayton is also prominently featured, particularly on two lovely piano-trio numbers, “Cambria" and “Avenida del Paraiso."
ALL ABOUT JAZZ-
CD/LP Review | Published: February 22, 2010
Matt Slocum | Chandra Records (2010)
By Mark F. Turner
Matt Slocum's multicolored traps—at times forceful or delicate, creatively painting varied tempos with the essence of swing—define the drummer's debut, Portraits. Hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota, Slocum's introduction carries forward the torch of patriarchs Max Roach and Elvin Jones amongst others, but he also carves out his own rhythmic patterns with young contemporaries such as Eric Harland and Johnathan Blake.
Slocum is joined by equally distinguished peers: award-winning pianist Gerald Clayton, whose own debut, Two-Shade (ArtistShare, 2009), was well received; and resolute bassist Massimo Biolcati, a longtime associate of guitarist Lionel Loueke. Portraits is mostly a trio outing, with special guest saxophonists Walter Smith III, Jaleel Shaw and Dayna Stephens, all noteworthy young voices, appearing on a couple of tracks.
Slocum presses forward with scintillating new material that has emotion and drive, unveiling nuanced charts like the stylish "Cambria," whose melody is suffused with a swinging glow. The trio's communication is palpable—each player's effervescence supporting and lifting each other and the music to higher grounds. But fertile soil is also tilled to great effect on the cover of Duke Ellington's "Daydream," where Smith plays with a deep tone, like an old soul from times past, and where Slocum's cymbal and mallet touches are simply haunting.
"Seven Stars" shifts with ease between heated modality and cool, marked by ubiquitous drums, torrential horns salvos and complexity touching sweet melodism to create one of the recording's best pieces. The remainder of the set follows form, including "Illusions and Delusions," featuring Stephens' tenor providing warmth, and "Avenida del Paraiso," with Biolcati's quaking bass and Slocum's spidery traps creating an intricate web for Clayton to navigate.
Present day jazz is clearly not stagnate in the very good hands (and sticks) of Matt Slocum—a young drummer who plays with empathy and verve.
By Tony Hall
Chandra CHR 8093 ****
Slocum (d), Gerald Clayton (p), Massimo Biolcati (b), Jaleel Shaw (as), Walter Smith II and Dayna Stephens (ts). Rec. 2008-9
Yet another impressive new talent, Slocum is not just a tasteful polyrhythmic drummer, whose subtle use of brushes and mallets brings shading and colour to his playing and who swings whatever the tempo, but also a composer of considerable promise. Having the ultra-talented Gerald Clayton to interpret, explore and extend these originals is a major asset. Since appearing initially with the Roy Hargrove Quintet, he has arguably become le pianist du jour and his dynamics, touch and sensitivity are among the highlights of this excellent CD. The opener, however, is a pianoless trio outing featuring Smith’s very contemporary tenor sound. The only non-original is a moving, highly individual take on the classic Johnny Hodges feature ‘Daydream’, with deep bluesy exploratory Smith and a first-rate musicianly mallets solo by Slocum. The increasingly personal altoist Jaleel Shaw and another newcomer, dreadlocked soft-toned tenorman Dayna Stephens help make the only quintet (and the most ‘free’) track ‘Seven Stars’ a standout, with the latter also featured on the plaintive ‘Illusions and Delusions’. Massimo Biolcati’s bass presence is constantly felt and adds much to every tune. A debut album of great distinction. You’ll hear new subtleties every time. Thoroughly recommended.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ NEW YORK
Matt Slocum | Chandra Records (2009)
By Terrell Kent Holmes
Drummer Matt Slocum makes a memorable debut with Portraits, an eloquent and sophisticated collection of mostly original compositions, interpreted smartly by the leader, pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Massimo Biolcati.
The trio tunes here define crispness and diversity, whether it's Clayton's nimble piano on "Cambria," Slocum's quicksilver drumming on the workout "Shadows" or Clayton's lush styling, Biolcati's murmuring pizzicato and Slocum's shimmering cymbals meshing perfectly on the impressionistic "For Alin." They also play light-hearted tunes, like the title cut and "Avenida del Paraiso," with the same skill and facility.
Guest appearances by several fine saxophonists give Portraits even greater depth. Walter Smith III's tenor cruises over hill and dale on "Homage" and his dreamy tone, with Slocum's dramatic use of mallets, enhance the beautiful Duke Ellington ballad "Daydream." The neo-hard bopper "Seven Stars" features Jaleel Shaw and Dayna Stephens going mano a mano on alto and tenor respectively. Their horns debate furiously throughout the tune, with counterpoint and occasional agreement, until Clayton steps in as a rhythmic mediator. "Illusions and Delusions" is a delightful slice of jazz noir; Stephens' breathy opening notes and fog-shrouded playing highlight this song's mysterious and intriguing atmosphere.
Matt Slocum's defining trait is smoothness. It shows in his measured drumming, the intelligence of his composing and his skill and imagination as an arranger. Portraits makes it clear that, with this excellent premiere, Slocum steps out of the box as the full package.
ALL MUSIC GUIDE- by Michael G. Nastos
Drummer/composer Matt Slocum's debut album as a leader has him sharing good company. The Wisconsin native takes full advantage of his residency in California by employing the rising star pianist Gerald Clayton, adding bassist Massimo Biolcati (on loan from Lionel Loueke), and adds saxophonists Walter Smith III, Dayna Stephens, or Jaleel Shaw on four select tracks. As a trio with Clayton, Slocum's music is taken over by the pianist's deft touch, holistic ideas, and beautiful, spontaneous inventions that supersede the written notes, while there's a better feeling of composition on the tracks featuring the saxes. It's all done quite beautifully, with the tasteful reserve many young mainstream jazz artists prefer rather than bebop bombast. "Averida Del Paraiso" is a truly gorgeous as Clayton's chiming piano moves in 4/4 time within 6/8, while the wonderful spirit song, "Cambria," also exudes the absolute resolve of a lovely persona. Alto saxophonist Shaw and Stephens on tenor team up for "Seven Stars" in modernistic parallel to the standard "Alone Together," while Smith's biting tenor goes alone with the bass and drums à la Sonny Rollins on "Homage" and the classic Billy Strayhorn ballad "Daydream" sans Clayton. Everything here is played meticulously, as these young musicians employ savvy tones far beyond their years. It seems drummers like Slocum, Dan Aran, and Daniel Freedman are coming to the forefront these days as performers who concentrate on writing their own music, proving that rhythm navigators are just as musically original as anyone. This auspicious debut should put Matt Slocum's name firmly on the jazz map of artists deserving wider recognition.
JAZZ POLICE (February 2010)
by Andrea Canter
Young drummer Matt Slocum already has a formidable resume--a scholarship to the Thornton School of Music at USC; a student of Phil Hey, Peter Erskine, Alan Pasqua, John Clayton, Joe LaBarbara and Shelly Berg; touring with rising star vocalist Sara Gazarek; and recent associations with Seamus Blake, Alan Broadbent, Bill Cunliffe, Larry Koonse, Wynton Marsalis, Bob Sheppard, Gerald Wiggins and Anthony Wilson. A budding master of composition as well as percussion, Slocum brings both talents to his debut recording, Portraits, released this month on Chandra Records. And the drummer is not the only young lion in the studio--Slocum's cohorts include pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Massimo Biolcati, and varying combinations of saxophonists Walter Smith III, Jaleel Shaw, and Dayna Stephens. "The music was written with these gentlemen and their unique musical personalities in mind," notes Slocum, "as a way to document this music and to provide a snapshot of this group of special musicians and friends." Eight of the nine tracks are Slocum originals.
Portraits is a collection of often delicate ballads and mid-tempo adventures, with four tracks featuring one (or two) of the saxes, and Clayton sitting out on two tracks, turning over the melodic compass to the horns. The drummer's melodic heart is evident throughout: The gentle "Cambria" highlights the grace of Clayton's piano, the lush tone of Biolcati, a slow dance that suggests Abdullah Ibrahim or Lynne Arriale. "For Alin" is another delicate pleasure, starting out as solo piano, and continuing as an elegant interaction among the trio. The title track swings at a midtempo, perhaps the finest example here of the collaboration among a tightly-bonded piano trio that makes extensive use of dynamic variation.
Slocum as composer and percussionist brings forth intriguing ideas, particularly on tracks such as "Shadows" where shifting moods, rhythms and colors create an air of suspense. The well-titled "Illusions and Delusions" feels like "Round Midnight" stretched into to the wee hours of morning, Biolcati's basslines magnificently brooding while Dayna Stephens' tenor sax adds some quivers that raise goosebumps. The melodic interplay of "Seven Stars" features two saxophones, Shaw on alto and Stephens on tenor, the horns weaving a lush line of sonic braid. "Avenida del Paraiso" closes the album south of the border, Biolcati's dancing basslines at the fore, Clayton subtly dazzling, Slocum a portrait of elegant restraint.
The two piano-less tracks, Slocum's "Homage" and Ellington's "Day Dream," highlight young lion Walter Smith III on tenor. On the opening "Homage" Biolcati's probing, bass pulsates from below ground level; Slocum rumbles without intruding, while Smith climbs up and down as if testing out a spiral staircase. Yet it's "Day Dream," with slithering sax, sultry basslines and resonant mallet solo, that by itself provides ample reason to check out this recording.
Matt Slocum is more than a rising star drummer--he is a composer of startling melodic sophistication. Portraits is just the beginning.
(also for Ms. Canter's interview with Matt Slocum go to www.jazzink.com)
STEP TEMPEST (January 2010)
by Richard Kamins
Portraits - Matt Slocum (Chandra Records) -
This is drummer/composer Slocum's debut as a leader and is a rewarding adventure for the listener. A Wisconsin native, he studied at USC with John Clayton, Alan Pasqua, and Peter Erskine (who supplied the liner notes), has toured with vocalist Sara Gazarek and recently made the move to New York City. The basic band for the recording is the fine young pianist Gerald Clayton (all but 2 tracks) and bassist Massimo Biolcati. Tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III appears on the piano-less cuts, tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens appears on 2 other tracks and alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw joins with Stephens and the band on 1 song.
First thing one hears is how crisp the music sounds - you can hear the nuances of Slocum's active stick work and the full tones of Biolcati's bass lines. The music on the opening 2 cuts has a gentle intensity, with "Homage" displaying Smith's rousing tenor work and "Cambria" Clayton's lyrical side. The rhythm section is totally engaged, not just playing the beat but reacting to the soloists' dynamic shifts. Smith also appears on the disk's one non-original, a sweet, bluesy, take of Ellington/Strayhorn's "Daydream." He shows the influence of Joe Lovano on this track, with a solo that never lose the intention of the song.
Other highlights include the high-flying "Shadows", a piano trio piece with a melody line that sounds by Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. Clayton builds his solo intelligently, rising to a smashing climax that leads to a heated drum solo. The 2 saxophonists are featured on "Seven Stars", weaving phrases around each other while the rhythm section pushes and prods them on. The middle of the tune belongs to Clayton for another melodic and dynamically engaging solo. The prettiest piece is "For Alin", a ballad with a lovely melody line, good bass work and excellent work from the leader on the cymbals. The CD closes with "Avenida del Paraiso"(perhaps named for the street in Carlsbad, California, or Caracas, Venezuela), another intense yet not overpowering trio piece.
Matt Slocum's debut is filled with good melodies, smart arrangements, strong solos, and great promise. The music is creative and somewhat mainstream (no "outside" music or exotic sounds) yet is consistently entertaining.
ICON (January 2010)
Portraits (Chandra Records) ****
by Nick Bewsey
Time to give some drummers some love. Debut recordings by two musicians illustrate the joys of leading with your drums, so to speak. Both are new to me – Matt Slocum, active as a sideman and involved with film scoring, is based in New York and his band features some of the most innovative players on the scene. Chicago based drummer, Dana Hall, is a more established musician with an impressive list of credits as a sidemen for 20 years and, while both dates make a statement, these two resourceful musicians take different approaches.
Matt Slocum is neither showy nor flashy – he excels with mallets and brushes -- his restraint with big beat pyrotechnics is the album’s greatest asset. Slocum’s modern tunes and arrangements have a warm patina and they nourish the ears, due in part to pianist Gerald Clayton (Roy Hargrove) and guest saxophonists Jaleel Shaw, Walter Smith III and Dayna Stephens. Eight tunes are by Slocum and they’re solid pleasures especially his sax-bass-drum feature, “Homage," and “Seven Stars," arranged for quintet. The lyrical title tune, “Portraits" swings superbly with a particularly expressive Clayton. The liner notes are by veteran drummer, Peter Erskine, who obviously appreciates Slocum’s compelling talent. “Portraits" is an understated gem and Slocum a genuine discovery.
MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE
Matt Slocum: A stalwart of Big Apple jazz scene
By BRITT ROBSON, Special to the Star Tribune
Ask jazz composer and drummer Matt Slocum to name his primary influences and he doesn't hesitate. "For writing? I would say Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington, Wayne Shorter, Tom Harrell, Dave Holland, Alan Pasqua, as well as Debussy and Ravel. For drummers, I guess my all-time big three would be Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones and Max Roach. Lately it's been Bill Stewart, Eric Harland, Matt Wilson, Kendrick Scott, Marcus Gilmore..."
He rattled off this personal honor roll less than 10 minutes after being awakened by a prearranged 11 a.m. phone call at his home in Paterson, N.J., an easy commute to his many gigs in the jazz mecca of New York City.
Slocum's enthusiastic immersion in the moment, coupled with his scholarly attention to detail, paints a classic portrait of the quickening artist as a young man. Now 28, the native of New Richmond, Wis., on the eastern fringe of the Twin Cities, will enjoy a prodigal homecoming of sorts when he showcases the material from his debut CD, "Portraits," at the Artists' Quarter in St. Paul this weekend.
Joining him in a distinctive trio will be bassist Joe Sanders -- an old cohort from the University of Southern California -- and Walter Smith III, a tenor saxophonist of growing repute. "Walter's lines have shapes I don't hear in anyone else's playing, and he's so soulful," Slocum enthused. "You can hear his influences, but he has his own, nonderivative sound."
Much the same can be said of "Portraits." There are sophisticated harmonies and simple melodies twisted ever so slightly to tug on the memory. "Shadows" prances atmospherically like a Wayne Shorter tune, and, like many Dave Holland songs, manages the trick of sounding busy and spacious at once.
The mood ranges from the simmering sax workout of "Homage" to the gently skewed ballad "For Alin" -- named for Slocum's longtime girlfriend -- to the upward glide of "Seven Stars," a saxophone conversation featuring Jaleel Shaw on alto and Dayna Stephens on tenor.
The only one of the nine tracks that Slocum didn't compose is a gorgeous, woozy rendition of the Ellington/Strayhorn ballad "Daydream," bisected by his inspired solo on the mallets. With reviews like the rave at Allaboutjazz.com -- "Slocum steps out of the box as the full package" -- "Portraits," released on tiny Chandra Records, should enhance his burgeoning reputation among the jazz cognoscenti.
Slocum's superb regular trio in New York includes heraldic pianist Gerald Clayton, another USC classmate who plays on the disc. Slocum cherishes his experience at the school, where one of his teachers was Peter Erskine, drummer for everyone from Stan Kenton to Weather Report, and an in-demand session player for the likes of Diana Krall, Linda Ronstadt and Queen Latifah.
"There are two kinds of teachers in jazz," said Slocum. "Those who teach you to play like them and those who teach you to play like yourself. Peter was always in the latter category. There was a time where I was transcribing everything Roy Haynes played on [the 1968 Chick Corea album] 'Now He Sings, Now He Sobs.' Peter said, 'How about if you play in the spirit of that, but play like you instead?'
"Another thing I liked about him is that time-keeping was number one with him: He wanted to do without the unnecessary notes."
Before Erskine, Slocum's first drumming mentor was local stalwart Phil Hey, who in three years helped transform a high school sophomore playing in a New Richmond, Wis., ska-punk band into a jazz lover headed for Southern Cal.
"He really gave me a foundation for jazz by hipping me to different recordings," Slocum said. "Some of the stuff he showed me I wasn't ready for until I got to USC, but was very helpful when I remembered it then, especially his stuff on brushes, where Phil is so good."
After graduating, Slocum spent three years in Pasadena. "I didn't really feel I was ready to go to New York. I had work in L.A. where I could play and teach, and I just wanted to explore and practice a little more before trying to move to the next level."
By 2007 he felt ready, found the place in Paterson and has established enough of a niche to support himself in the clubs of New York.
With no pianist in his trio this weekend, some of the songs on "Portrait," including "Shadows," will have to be sacrificed. No matter: He's completed 30 or so original compositions, including some tailor-made for saxophonist Smith -- just the way Ellington and Strayhorn did it.
"I'm doing exactly what I want to do," Slocum said, fully awake now. "And I've got a lot of friends and family that will be really fun to see when I get to St. Paul."
SOMETHING ELSE REVIEWS.COM
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Matt Slocum - Portraits (2010)
When you read the liner notes to Matt Slocum's new record Portraits, it's full of effusive but knowledgeable praise from one of Slocum's former instructors at the University of Southern California, where he earned a degree from the prestigious Thornton School of Music. That's a pretty good reference, but it gains more credence because of two things: the laudatory remarks come from all-world drummer/composer Peter Erskine and Slocum is a drummer/composer himself. "He 'gets' Philly Joe Jones and Roy Haynes as good as any other drummer I know and has managed to infuse his drumming with his own style," observes Erskine. That's one way of saying that Slocum takes chances, and understands how to use the drums as an instrument to provide the right coloration, not just the right beat. And most of all, he knows how to swing.
As for Matt Slocum The Composer, well, Portraits itself was made possible thanks in part to a Meet The Composer Foundation grant. That's one way of saying "I'm putting my money where my mouth is."
This New Richmond, Wisconsin native now in New York for the last couple of years has come forth with an album of eight originals and one Billy Strayhorn cover that provides a good measure of how he is able to handle performing and creating in the most demanding jazz environment in the world. For these sessions, Slocum chooses some of the finer young players in that town: pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Massimo Biolcati, tenor saxophonists Walter Smith III and Dayna Stephens, and alto sax player Jaleel Shaw. But Slocum liberally tinkers with the configuration from song to song, employing a sax on only four tracks, and doing away with the piano of two of them. The variation in the sound palette that results sustains interest, almost like you're listening to a compilation of the choice cuts from a variety of different artists.
The piano-less "Homage" displays Slocum's old-school ability to interact one-on-one with a sax and bass in succession, but it also shows he can build a thematic line memorable enough to not require a chordal instrument to state it. On the other end of tactics he uses, "Avenida Del Paraiso" replaces the sax with Clayton's piano to render a rich, Brazilian-inspired melody that is mostly a wonderful showcase for Clayton. However, Slocum's carefully modulated cymbal and brush work helps to make this song work, too. In between these bookends are a variety of other little pleasures: Slocum's sophisticated mallets such as in the middle of Strayhorn's "Daydream," the bass/drums groove underpinning Clayton's lively piano on "Cambria," and quiet conversation between two fine sax players (Stephens, Shaw) on "Seven Stars." For each tune, Slocum employs different tempos and different approaches for meshing with his colleagues, in a manner that fits the song the best.
Released on January 19 on Chandra Records, Portraits establishes Matt Slocum as a leader who doesn't just pay lip service to the post-bop tradition, he immerses himself in it in a way that reminds us why we fell in love with that kind of music in the first place. Says Erskine, "it can be stated with certainty that the Matt Slocum album you're listening to is a real 'jazz' record." To which I say, "amen, brother."
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