Drummer E.J. Strickland is currently a member of the long-lived quartet of Ravi Coltrane (along with Luis Perdomo & Drew Gress), and his brother Marcus Strickland’s celebrated electric/acoustic quartets & trio. He also leads his own bands, The E.J. Strickland Quintet & The E.J. Strickland Project. His playing has been described as emitting “fields of cumulative energy, clouds of feather-touch and heavy-handed syncopations, latent with power like an oncoming storm” (Thomas Conrad, Downbeat Magazine). Amongst his discography of over 25 album titles with various recording artists, his long-anticipated debut album “In This Day” (Strick Muzik) will soon be released in 2009.
Enoch Jamal Strickland was born in Gainesville and raised in Miami, Florida. His father, a former percussionist for the Fort Lauderdale Symphony Orchestra and a jazz enthusiast, immersed E.J. and his twin bother Marcus with music from Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Stevie Wonder, The Jazz Crusaders, Led Zeppelin, and Jimmy Hendricks. Unsurprisingly, he chose to study music when he turned 11, and decided to pursue a career as a professional musician a year later.
He attended The New World School of the Arts (Miami) for high school, studying classical music as well as jazz. He found great influences in drummers like Elvin Jones, “Philly” Joe Jones, Roy Haynes, Tony Williams, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Brian Blade, and many, many others. After meeting Wynton Marsalis, Jon Faddis, and Bobby Watson at Miami clinics, the Strickland brothers decided to go to New York City to further pursue their studies and goals.
In 1997, E.J. attended The New School for Social Research, where he studied piano, polished his skills as a composer, and studied with some of the world’s greatest drummers: Joe Chambers, Michael Carvin, Carl Allen, Ralph Peterson, Lewis Nash, and Jimmy Cobb. He started to develop a sound when The Marcus Strickland Quartet was formed, adding classmates Robert Glasper and Brandon Owens. Before earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jazz Performance, he had already performed with artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Nneenna Freelon, Abbey Lincoln, Christian McBride, Herbie Hancock, Wessell Anderson, and Dianne Reeves.
E.J. is also currently touring & performing with Cassandra Wilson, George Colligan quartet & trio, and the David Gilmore trio.
On his debut release as a leader In This Day (available May 19 on StrickMuzik), drummer & composer E.J. Strickland introduces his quintet & his music in a variety of textures, moods, & contexts. Over the years, he’s been noted as a key sideman for saxophonists Ravi Coltrane & Marcus Strickland, a five-year stint with guitarist Russell Malone, and a freelancer with many other artists such as George Colligan, Lizz Wright, Freddie Hubbard & The New Jazz Composer’s Octet, and Cassandra Wilson. Now, with an engaging cast of players, the culmination of his experiences is documented on his debut CD. In This Day features Enoch Jamal Strickland (drums, compositions), Jaleel Shaw (alto sax), Marcus Strickland (tenor & soprano saxophones), Luis Perdomo (piano & Wurlitzer), Hans Glawischnig (acoustic & electric basses), with special guests David Gilmore (acoustic & electric guitars on tracks 9, 13), Pedro Martinez (congas & djembe on tracks 2, 5, 6, 12), Yosvany Terry (tenor sax, chekere, & bell on track 6), Charenee Wade (vocals on track 3), Cheray O'Neal-Mamazun (spoken word on tracks 3, 7), Tia Fuller (flute), Brandee Younger (harp).
“Abandoned Discovery”, “Eternal”, & “Wrong Turn” are tunes that feature his core band: Jaleel Shaw, Marcus Strickland, Luis Perdomo, & Hans Glawischnig. Whether in unison or interweaving counter-melodies with each other, Jaleel & Marcus’ horns sing beautifully over the very cohesive rhythmic unit of E.J., Luis, & Hans. While congero Pedro Martinez provides an Afro-Cuban undercurrent in selections like “Asante” & “New Beginnings” (with Yosvany on tenor & percussion), the band never loses its heightened sense of interactive flow. A special addition to this album is that of two voices: poet Cheray O’Neal (aka Mamazun) on interludes “Eternal (intro)” & “In Faith (In This Day)”, and vocalist Charenee Wade also on “Eternal (intro)”.
The djembe on the album cover is a tribute to the “power of the woman” they certainly exude. The band really engages the listener on quartet and trio ballads like “In This Day” with Marcus’ soprano-played stanzas, and “Find Myself” with Jaleel’s soft alto-musings. Guitarist David Gilmore steps in with his electric on the fusion-ish “Angular Realms”, and (with his acoustic) is later joined by harpist Brandee Younger & bassist Hans Glawischnig on “Robin (intro)”. While E.J. doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight with his band, like the trio of Tia Fuller on flute with Hans & Pedro, he does have two drum features, one floating over a vamp on “New Beginnings” & another fiery solo on “Angular Realms”. Throughout the entire album he displays a distinct ability to lead his band wonderfully through his mastery of the drums & cymbals while his compositions provide an perfectly intriguing atmosphere for all of the musicians’ improvisations.
While most of the music on “In This Day” proves to be somewhat challenging, it doesn’t seem to prevent E.J. & his band from performing with much emotional depth. The meaning of the title track poem that Cheray recites on “In Faith (In This Day)” flows through all of the music, providing the foundation on which this entire album was built upon.”