The Brooklyn-based drummer Devin Gray – known for his collaborations with pianist Kris Davis and sax player Ingrid Laubrock, took the time before he reconvened his quartet to record a follow-up album to «Dirigo Rataplan» (Skirl Records, 2012). Five years passed since the recording of the debut album of this quartet and the recording the second one «Dirigo Rataplan II», the first one on Gray’s own label, Rataplan Records. This period reflect a natural evolution of Gray’s compositional ideas and improvising strategies as well as a deeper interplay of the quartet that features the experienced tenor sax player Ellery Eskelin, trumpeter Dave Ballou and double bass player Michael Formanek.
«Dirigo Rataplan II» allows more freedom and personal space, with no attempt to follow any genre conventions or even rhythmic patterns. Gray opts for a sense of organic, open flow, where the brief, melodic themes are abstracted naturally into free-improvised segments and again, the improvised parts are transformed instantly into compositional ideas, in loose and elliptical yet intimate dynamics. Gray says that he did not plan to make a jazz record, just «to capture the moment, the contemporary feel of the music, hoping that it can reflect in some small way how we live now and what we all have to deal with as human beings in the world».
And this quartet knows how to cook and play with its flow. Gray and Formanek keep alternating between different patterns but do set a loose sense of time. Eskelin injects intensity to this kind of open interplay and enjoys trading ideas with Ballou, who, in his turn, charges the quartet with eccentric yet expressive solos. Often, as on «Texicate» and «Micro Dosage», all the musicians sound as translating Gray’s ideas into their very own personal sensibilities, working on four parallel, layered courses that keep criss-crossing each other. There are pieces like «The Wire» and «What we learn from cities» where the quartet builds a gentle groove, tinged with East-European colors, but the most beautiful pieces are the ones where the quartet dives deep into emotional terrains as on the lyrical «Quantum Cryptology» and «The Feeling of Healing», dedicated to the late jazz drummer Steve Grover.
Ellery Eskelin (ts), Michael Formanek (b), Dave Ballou (tp), Devin Gray (dr)