E.J. Strickland Quintet
"The Undying Spirit"
E.J. Strickland begins his new album, "The Undying Spirit," appropriately enough with a drum solo. Strickland is one of the top drummers in jazz, known for his work with his twin brother Marcus Strickland, Ravi Coltrane, and Russell Malone. That solo and his others on the album are filled with energy and creativity, but this is a showcase for so much more than his percussion prowess. Strickland wrote nine of the album's 10 tunes in his highly distinct, free-flowing style, and they are all excellent. The CD's one cover, which begins with another wonderful drum solo, is Cedar Walton's "Hindsight."
Strickland's arrangements are greatly enhanced by the quality of his band-mates. His brother Marcus is one of jazz's top tenor saxophonists, and Jaleel Shaw is equally adept on alto. Their solos and harmonies are no small part of the magic here. The piano chair is covered by the superb Luis Perdomo, and star-in-the-making Linda Oh plays bass. Put these great players together with highly original compositions and an accent on the power of drumming and you've got one of the year's best jazz albums.