Damon Sawyer’s new CD Struttin’ South is a straight-ahead, fusion influenced package featuring some of Europe’s finest jazz musicians. Mr. Sawyer, a polished drummer and accomplished producer and recording engineer hails from England where he runs his own studio. Struttin’ South captures his early influences of Weckl and Gadd combined with his experience in numerous blues bands. The result is a powerful, raw statement of high energy material in the hands of an incredible line-up of talent.
Saxophonist Anatoliy Vyacheslavov provides a strong leading voice on the majority of tunes. "Cakewalkin’" and "Look-Ka Py Py," however, feature the guitar more prominently. Rhodes keyboards add layers of sound to the ensemble, especially in the composition "In the Basement" by Nova, Taylor and Sawyer. All but one tune is original material by Sawyer and/or other members of the group. Latin and funk grooves wind their way through the gritty mix of blues infused pieces. Monk’s "Well You Needn’t" is treated with a refreshing groove with the melody played by the bass. "On Lombard Street" also features a tasteful, melodic bass opening before giving way to an up-tempo groove.
Struttin’ South features Damon Sawyer’s prominent drumming, but as he intertwines with the entire ensemble, the drums are transformed into a melodic instrument streaming through the music. Conversational texture and instrumental interplay make Struttin’ South a refreshing, intensely positive, no nonsense fusion of great writing and great playing.