Jay Rosen Trio | CIMP Records
Drums 'N Bugles
By Jay Collins

On paper, a "trumpet project" with a two trumpets and drums instrumental structure is an unlikely recipe for success, especially for a sixty-minute duration. Without bottom support or chordal underpinnings, a successful venture would have to call upon a skilled, if not remarkable, group of improvisers to counter the presupposed lack of depth. While not always 100% compelling, these incredibly unique and fascinating musicians make Drums 'N Bugles, drummer Jay Rosen's second recording as a leader, a surprisingly cogent and fascinating listen.

Rosen, one of the CIMP label's "house" drummers, demonstrates the skillful use of his instrument, using it to create expansive colors and choice melodies driven with an expert command. Dynamic control is perhaps his greatest strength, an attribute unfortunately lacking in far too many drummers. Not only does he color the atmosphere around the trumpets, strategically using space, but he also pushes and prods their distinctive explorations with his solid rhythmic foundation.

All three musicians involved have performed in a wide variety of contexts for the last twenty to thirty years and unfortunately, all remain remarkably underrated or worse yet, unknown. They have demonstrated their talents on a variety of recordings, most recently for the CIMP label (Rosen alone has appeared on over 25 CIMP recordings). Herb Robertson's catalog is scarce but Winter and Winter's recent reissues of his JMT recordings are welcome. He is a versatile and unique player whose unpredictability and considerable technical skills are stimulating. His trombone-like sound is particularly put to good use via his slide-trumpet (for example, on "The Others"). Paul Smoker is also a distinctive player that displays an innovative and very personal technique, whether performing in a more conventional manner or when utilizing a variety of timbres. Indeed, the host of mutes and the employment of a myriad of growls, bursts and slurs causes many attention-grabbing moments.

The program consists of eleven relatively short pieces, all spontaneously improvised. This is an exploratory session, as the musicians push themselves and their instruments to the boundaries, in an abstract fashion with sounds brimming with personality and inspiration. The disc begins with a dedication to Dominic Duvall's late wife, "Transcendence", reflecting a somber, melancholy mood that builds into an intense, passionate improvisation. "Flair Up" contains similar distinctive sounds that bubble over with intensity. The trio also demonstrates its collective sense of humor on the amusingly titled, "D and B Core". Lest one think that the program is full of only airy or brooding improvisations, the trio reflects on mellow tones during the exquisite ballad "Solarity". On the other hand, "Torrentials" is a forceful adventure showcasing vibrant group interaction. Perhaps the most interesting track is "Supports", as the trio plays as if they were supporting another soloist, only that soloist does not play (time to use your imagination!). Rosen also presents two drum solo performances, "Grace Through Courage" and "Jaropean Dance", focused and tasteful explorations of his proficiency.

This is a challenging and inspired set by some of the most unheralded musicians in improvised music. The variety makes this one worth investigating and the reactive process that occurs is invigorating.