It’s Telling.... A Drummer’s Perspective is the ninth disc as a leader by drummer Jae Sinnett; he also has his own performance-instructional video, Musical Drumming Concepts. As a composer Sinnett has scored documentaries that have aired on PBS, and in addition to his performing career currently works as producer and host for National Public Radio affiliate, WHRV-FM, 89.5 in Norfolk, VA. He has taught jazz history, theory and percussion and directed the jazz groups at the Governors School for the Arts in Norfolk and is an adjunct drumset and jazz ensemble instructor at Christopher Newport University. Some of the artists he has worked with include Branford and Ellis Marsalis, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Chuck Mangione, Herb Ellis and Arthur Blythe, to name just a few.
Perennial saxophonist deserving more attention Steve Wilson, the great bassist Terry Burrell, and pianist Allen Farnham join the leader for a set of eight Sinnett original straight-ahead and wide-open blowing compositions. Standout performances include a ripping piano solo by Farnham on "Cliffhanger." This guy has chops-aplenty and thankfully doesn’t hide them. His fleet fingers are equally matched and complimented by Sinnett’s hard-driving backbeat laden forceful kicks and ever-constant tempo pushing. With Burrell’s subtle lines beneath, the result is sublime music making of the highest order.
"Simple Pleasures" allows Sinnett to show off his refined and stylish brush work. He isn’t a great musician solely in terms of technical mastery, he’s also able to place accentual emphasis at the right moments and at the right times. On "Locus" his mixed rolls and compact time work behind Wilson’s modally inflected solo is perfection to the max. Sinnett’s flexibility is magnificent as he then immediately pulls back to emphasize cymbal work behind Farnham’s solo, which spurs the pianist into his most impressionistic solo of the set. You can tell Farnham’s rhythmic motives are directly influenced by Sinnett’s concise and succinct cymbal coloring.
If there is a problem with the recording it’s that Wilson doesn’t always sound like he’s at home. That he’s a monster is a given, but at times you hear he and Farnham searching each other out to find common ground. "It’s Telling.... " and "Manque" have moments where the two don’t quite sync up. To make up for it Sinnett drives perhaps a little too strongly in support where laying back a bit more would have been more effective. That the music on this recording is difficult could be part of the problem. One need only listen to "Crescent City Undercurrent" to get a sense of the complex and intricate nature of the material these artists are dealing with on each and every track. To become familiar with advanced fabrics of this quality would really take an ensemble a while to work out kinks and find more points of shared association. In all, however, this is a minor distraction.
Burrell as a bassist is the steadying influence throughout the entire collection. His poignant lines and rock solid rhythm so grounds the ensemble in the moment it’s hard to imagine this music without his playing. This disc is worthy of much listening, and would-be composers would do well to study these compositions.