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E.J. Strickland Quintet: "The Undying Spirit"

E.J. Strickland Quintet CD The Undying Spirit

Drummer E.J. Strickland builds buzz. He's played creative parts in the bands of Ravi Coltrane, his brother saxophonist Marcus Strickland, guitarist Russell Malone, and leading his own ensembles.

As Downbeat magazine described him, "Strickland emits fields of energy, clouds of feather touch and heavy hand syncopations, like an oncoming storm."

The buzz around E.J. continues to grow with The Undying Spirit, a quintet offering which includes alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, Marcus Strickland on tenor & soprano sax, pianist Luis Perdomo and bassist Linda Oh.

Nine of the ten tracks here are originals, and Strickland wastes no time getting your attention.

"Ride" opens this recording, and provides an energized setting for all to explore. As the Village Voice says, "his swing is flecked with funk; his groove providing nuanced polyrhythms."

The soulful cry of "For My Home Folks" lets the listener take in the heartfelt exchanges between saxists Shaw and Strickland.

Perdomo's intro to "Transcendence" sets things up for the group to swing through the 5/4 signature.

The group becomes most quiet on "Midnight Clearing", with Oh's bass lines setting the tone.

"Bomba For Leel and Max" is a fast paced original, where the saxophonists and their nicknames get first billing. Perdomo's piano rhythm exchanges with the drummer excite this one to new discoveries.

There's a nod to the masterful creations of pianist Cedar Walton. His "Hindsight" provides a syncopated romp for the leader to set the foresight of what's to develop into a straight ahead post bop groove.

E.J. Strickland says of his sophomore effort he wanted to provide an album that was uplifting to the listener, while capturing the quintet's growth.

He's done both with remarkable result.

"The Undying Spirit" comes out March 17. E.J. celebrates live with his group March 29 at Falcon Theatre in Marlboro, New York and March 31 at Jazz Standard in New York City.

  - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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