Jay Rosen | CIMP Records
Songs for Samuel
By Steven Loewy

Solo albums are difficult for most listeners, solo drum albums even more so. Jay Rosen, who through the date of this release had appeared on more than forty albums on the CIMP label during a period of ten years, performs a la carte, supplementing the usual drum set with bells, organ pipes, and other tools of the trade.

This is a concept album in that each track is inspired by the life of Samuel Rosen, the father of Jay. In his notes, Rosen (the leader, not the dad) states that most of the tracks were “composed on the spot,” with “Part 6” actually “…depict[ing] the last few days of my father’s life…” For most listeners, the connection will be difficult, but as Robert Rusch suggests, the drumming holds its own by subordinating technique to the music, though as he also notes, there is no lack of the former. Each piece has its charms and explores different strategies, however subtle the differences in some cases.

Although instantly improvised, Rosen is experienced and creative enough that the pieces appear structured, and he continually alters variables to maintain listener interest. He uses the full range of his kit to explore changes in timbre, rhythm, and volume, and although melody is not part of the picture, the results are surprisingly accessible. Starting out powerfully with the first track, Rosen maintains a thoughtful intensity for the entire album, with numerous diversions along the way.

The set is rewarding, if complex and demanding, and those who particularly treasure the sounds of drums are certain to be delighted. For others, the skills and the esoteric aspects may be appreciated, but nearly an hour of solo drumming, no matter how well-played - might be a bit much.