Matt Slocum

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Portraits Review

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.

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