E.J. Strickland

In This Day

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E.J. Strickland is the drumming brother of saxophonist Marcus Strickland. While Marcus has recorded several albums as a leader since the turn of the century, this is the first for E.J., who has provided a beat for numerous others, among them Marcus and this album's producer, Ravi Coltrane. There is no denying E.J.'s skills as a percussionist and from the opening track, "Abandoned Discovery," he proves agile and resourceful. Whether on soulful, bluesy ballads such as the title track and "Find Myself," or on the more driving numbers, like "Asante (For the Tribes of Ghana)," Strickland is in the pocket, avoids being showy, and proves himself an assured leader. Accompanied by Marcus on soprano and tenor saxophones, Jaleel Shaw on alto sax, the excellent Luis Perdomo playing piano, and the fine bassist Hans Glawischnig, Strickland encourages tight communication among his musicians and gives them ample leeway to stretch. Strickland's soloing and ability to navigate hairpin melodic turns is exemplified on "Wrong Turn," and his tandem work with Marcus throughout is especially impressive. A number of guest players also add to the conversation. There are some questionable moments, however, among them the out-of-place usage of spoken word interludes from Cheray O'Neal. Perhaps Strickland's intention was to give the set an air of solemnity but instead the breaks throw off the flow of the listening experience. Nonetheless, In This Day is a fine first effort as a leader and will undoubtedly lead to more.

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