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Devin Gray and Gerald Cleaver – ’27 Licks’

Devin Gray and Gerald Cleaver – 27 Licks
(Rataplan Records  RR 007. CD Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

This duo album is the latest recording by two drummers who have played and recorded together many times since they first met at the Banff Workshop in 2006. Cleaver was teaching, Gray was a student.  Gerald Cleaver (b.1963) is one of the most respected drummers on the free scene, while Devin Gray, now in his mid 30’s, has become a top-call drummer in New York.

Their CD (also available from Devin Gray’s Bandcamp) consists of eight tracks. Seven of them are quite short, whereas the eighth and final track is much longer, just under 21 mins. Each of the short tracks has a particular focus:  the opening track, 27 Licks, presents a gentle conversation between the two drummers; F.

Train Drain leads off with what sounds like a Chinese gong before building up to an intense climax with both drummers; Headed to Barbes pays tribute to a leading Brooklyn club with drums interacting with a cymbal wash; Love Conquers Hate presents a series of natural sounds as if one was walking through a forest; One for Bernie is presumably a tribute to Bernie Sanders and is appropriately challenging with sharp metallic sounds; The Long Roll Ahead proceeds unsurprisingly through a series drum rolls contrasting with a repeated pattern on the cymbals; Shenanigans is also quite challenging in its initial use of cymbals before settling down to a nice groove on the drums.

The long track, Headbangershas much more of a narrative going through a series of episodes and a lot of call-and-response between the two drummers.

Gray has spoken eloquently about his gratitude to Cleaver: “It’s honestly really hard for me to imagine where I would be in my life right now if I hadn’t met Gerald in the way we did so many years ago.” It may seem paradoxical, but their sense of fellowship and common purpose has produced an album to sit back and to enjoy in a relaxed manner, perhaps  with a beer or a glass of wine…

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