The first Dirigo Rataplan album arrived in 2012; unfortunately, this reviewer didn’t have a chance to listen to it. On the other hand, this lack of knowledge helps in scrutinizing Dirigo Rataplan II without preconceptions about issues such as “evolution” and “maturation”. Drummer Devin Gray composes for this unit, also including Ellery Eskelin on tenor sax, Michael Formanek on bass and Dave Ballou on trumpet. The “technical know-how” side is all but covered, then.

Gray declares “I don’t set out to make jazz records, per se. I set out to make music, period”. Healthy attitude, if you ask me; this is exactly how the entire population of the jazz universe should approach the sounds from the present day, independently from rootage and timbral orientation. The ten compositions show several interesting attributes: coalescence of pulses inside a sustained intelligibility, melodic research tending to the affirmation of angular geometries, responsible sharing of the playing room among four musicians whose lucidity is unquestionable, and never jeopardized. Thus it’s not a matter of adventurous turbulence; picture instead a gathering of bright thinkers still capable of taking deep breaths in between their educated dissertations.

Could someone translate the preceding words with the term “coldness”? Only superficially. If time is taken to decode the little thematic secrets inherent to Gray’s unambiguous orchestrations, aural benefits will come aplenty. In that regard, one of my favorite tracks is “The Feeling Of Healing”, dedicated to a fellow percussionist, the late Steve Grover. The nucleus of Dirigo Rataplan’s creative indagation is best symbolized right here: an organized openness enriched by the collective ability of regrouping in an instant to produce a rewarding contrapuntal chemistry.

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