Ferit Odman – Autumn In New York (2011)
by Nick DeRiso
There’s something at once familiar, and entirely brand new, about Turkish drummer Ferit Odman’s new Autumn In New York.
Taking his cue from jazz drumming and bandleading legend Art Blakey, Odman investigates a series of tunes associated with the Blakey band, and even includes former members of the Jazz Messengers collective. Odman, however, performs with a carefully wrought sensitivity that the hard-hitting Blakey rarely allowed for himself. This gives Autumn In New York a touch of the edgy bop intensity of the best Jazz Messengers projects but with a much more songful delicacy.
Like Blakey, Odman’s a quietly forceful leader throughout, building tension within the tracks that is then vigorously resolved by his bandmates. But he’s not prone to the sweeping gesture, nor the lengthy solo, so while this is a drummer-led record, Autumn In New York remains a showcase for his talented sidemen.
That starts with a smartly swinging version of late-1950s Blakey sideman Benny Golson’s “Step Lightly,” as Odman provides a perfect underpinning to the soaring interplay between trumpeter Terell Stafford and alto saxophonist Vincent Herring. Stafford’s solo is a soaring delight, as he reaches into his highest register without ever sounding shrill or out of control. Herring then pulls the reins hard for a soulful turn, boasting a fat, approachable sound here that’s not unlike Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. If anything, pianist Anthony Wonsey and bassist Peter Washington (himself an 1980s-era member of the Jazz Messengers) become even more considered – exploring a diaphanous, half-lit series of figures together before the horns return to restate Golson’s timelessly involving theme.
Stafford takes a half-step forward in the mix for what appears to be an urbane mid-tempo take by the Odman group on “Alter Ego,” the first of a series of tracks on Autumn In New York written by late-1970s Blakey alum James Williams. Soon, however, things are heating up nicely. Stafford’s subsequent solo, with Odman confidently urging him on from the drum chair, is bright and complex – bringing in the soul of Miles Davis and the speed of Freddie Hubbard. When Herring (who also played with Blakey before his passing in 1990) returns to the fore, he sounds likewise emboldened, playing with a fiery determination that perfectly dovetails with Odman’s more forceful fills. Wonsey performs with a cascading contrast, again pulling the song into a slightly more contemplative moment, before “Alter Ego” concludes with an urgent, interesting restatement.
[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Ferit Odman's debut, this year's 'Nommo,' is a collaborative, almost communal, effort that also features Vincent Herring and Peter Washington.]
Vernon Duke’s title track begins as another vehicle for Stafford, who this time settles into an appropriately lonesome wail. His turn is both haunting and nearly weightless, a perfect declamation of fall’s plaintive ruminations. Wonsey, Odman and Washington again play with an almost invisible luminosity.
Williams’ “The Soulful Mr. Timmons,” written in tribute to late-1950s Blakey pianist Bobby Timmons, provides Odman with a chance to perform with a charging urgency behind twin blasts of funky soul from Herring and Stafford. But, as expected, the tune turns on these fleet expressions of swinging joy by Wonsey. After a series of impressive displays both of stillness and striking emotion in his earlier performances, Wonsey simply cuts loose here – and to great effect. There’s a similarly expressed boundless enthusiasm, this time from the whole group, as “Hindsight” follows. The tune, from 1960s-era Blakey keyboardist/arranger Cedar Walton, is defined by boisterous, conversational statements between Herring and Wonsey – hurried along by a restless polyrhythm courtesy of Odman.
Herring finds his own moment in the spotlight during the vintage ballad “My Ideal,” performing with an anguished beauty. Odman and Co. then finish Autumn In New York with a surging rendition of “Changing of the Guard,” the final composition from Williams. It’s an appropriate sentiment, on a record that finds Odman paying tribute to, but never confining himself to, the ageless legacy of a jazz hero in Blakey.
Ferit Odman – Autumn In New York (2011)
Jazz drummer Ferit Odman had been working as a sideman to other jazz musicians for the better part of a decade before releasing his first album as a bandleader, 2010’s Nommo. One year later and he and his band have already churned out their second album, Autumn In New York. Odman takes seven songs from an array of different artists, like pianists James Williams and Cedar Walton, saxophonist Benny Golson and songwriter Vernon Duke, and puts them together in seamless fashion. Top-notch drumming is matched with exceptional musicianship from the rest of the quintet, resulting in a fantastic display of technical finesse and ability.
Odman and the boys begin with the Golson piece, “Step Lightly.” The way the band tackles this song is perfect for showcasing their talent. It starts with the combination of Terell Stafford on trumpet and Vincent Herring on the alto sax. Anthony Wonsey keeps a backing melody flowing from his piano and Peter Washington plays a soft yet pronounced bass line that blends well with the light, cymbal based percussion from Odman. The way the song is arranged allows for each member of the band to play the lead instrument for a while. Aside from Odman, who plays steadily along the entire time, each musician has a singled out section where they play their heart out, and the flow from one to another is remarkable.
A similar theme occurs on the next song, “Alter Ego,” one of three pieces taken from the James Williams songbook. The piano has a bit more of an extensive role as Wonsey plays a gorgeous accompaniment to the trumpet and sax. As happened in the song prior, the trumpet lead gives way to the saxophone and from there leads into the piano. Wonsey turns in a very strong performance, playing a solo that ascends rapidly and beautifully. Underneath this all is some stellar work by Odman. His playing is subdued enough to where it doesn’t overshadow the other performances, but when he lets loose with a quick fill or a few snaps of the wrist; it’s noticeable and perfectly played.
Things slow down considerably for the title track, to where everything but the sound of Stafford’s trumpet is tucked away quietly in the back of the song. From there, the atmosphere is set to let Stafford take the song and through his beautiful playing, take the listener into the titular setting. It’s a slow, wistful piece, heavily evocative and able to conjure images without words.
In a complete turnaround, the music picks back up with “The Soulful Mr. Timmons.” Opening strongly with the piano, a quick burst of drums breaks the song into a full arrangement. For the first time on the album, Odman really opens up and plays with more force and vigor. The music takes kind of a swing feel to it thanks largely to the added kick from Odman’s drum kit and a fantastic saxophone part from Herring. Washington’s featured part on bass is amazingly groovy and leads to a drum solo where Odman eschews the kind of fast and powerful showboating that others do and plays a rhythmic, technical solo that impresses without drawing the listener too far from the piece itself.
“Hindsight” falls into the same kind of pattern that the first two songs held, with the lead shifting between the various instruments. A key difference though is the intensity of the rhythm section, having carried over some of the energy of the song prior. In turn, the energy drops down again as the album’s second ballad; “My Ideal” comes in. As opposed to “Autumn…” the saxophone features as the lead instrument, accompanied by the atmospheric backing of the rest of the band. There is also a beautiful section with the mingling of the bass and piano that adds a tremendous amount of resonance to the established mood.
Odman and his band wrap thing up with the extremely exciting piece, “Changing of the Guard.” Riveting from start to finish, the whole band rips through this recording with intensity and excitement. Every member is playing with a fervor that was heard in part, early on the album, but come across fully to end things with a bang. The same kind of procedure that guided the opening songs returns again but with even more action than on “Hindsight.” It’s a gripping listen and a more than fitting end to the album.
Despite the fact that it’s his name on the record, you wouldn’t be able to tell that Autumn In New York is credited to Ferit Odman. He doesn’t take the limelight, he doesn’t put himself on center stage; he just creates and maintains a rhythm that brings together five talented musicians behind some brilliant song choices. Odman is an exceptional talent, surrounded by exceptional talent, and Autumn In New York wonderfully captures these gentlemen at their best.
Review by: Heath Andrews
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)