Anybody turning 50 reaches a milestone. For drummer and percussionist Hamid Drake, it manifested itself with the realization that it was high time to cut a debut album as a leader. In an effort to bridge the Chicago-New York divide, he convened a quartet of reed players pairing Sabir Mateen and Daniel Carter from the Big Apple with Ernest Dawkins and young alto player Greg Ward from the Windy City. It must be said that Ward does not feel too intimidated to be in such illustrious company and acquits himself with flying colors. The session emphasizes Drake's meditative side informed by his study of Eastern music and philosophy, which is best expressed through his frame drum and tabla playing. When the drummer switches to the trap set, suddenly the intensity rises to alternately produce joyful and hard-hitting results. Propelled and supported by the percussionist, the four saxophonists and clarinetists offer gorgeous comping and vamping, harrowing counterpoints, and enthralling dialogues; their interwoven voices are definitely a highlight. Two gorgeous solo pieces help define Drake's sensibility as a percussionist and explain why he is one the most talented drummer of his generation. Bindu also features an impromptu duet with flautist Nicole Mitchell. The piece has been wisely sequenced as the opener and does not distract from the proceedings; in fact, it serves as a fine introduction. This most auspicious attempt at leading his own project should encourage Drake to move further in that direction.
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AllMusic Review by Alain Drouot