So, I attempted a search to see if anyone had mentioned Jim Black before, but instead I found every thread about black drums, black rims, Back in Black, or Black Hole Sun.
This guy is an absolute monster. I had the real pleasure of seeing him at my school either sometime spring 07 or fall 06, I forget. He held a 2-hour clinic where he worked with a small group on how to develop a group dynamic/connection during free improvisations and it was just great. He played a show with some of the students later that night in a real last-minute set up and it was just amazing. He's going to be making a return visit in the next couple of weeks and will be staying for a couple of days, and I'm extremely excited.
He has a really unique setup which is worth checking out (especially his cymbals), and he's an absolute master at coaxing as many possible sounds out of the drums as he can (different sticks, bowing cymbals, bending heads, and other crazier things). He also augments the kit sounds by using a whole bunch of different trinkets/toys for sound effects, including shakers, bells, and little music boxes.
It's really interesting to note where he's coming from and how he sees himself as a musician. He's from Seattle (along with saxophonists Andrew D'Angelo and Chris Speed (I think)) and attended Berklee. He was doing the jazz thing and got really into Jeff "Tain" Watts to the point where he really began to sound like him. The influence of rock playing is also extremely evident in his style.
He moved to New York and began to play on the "downtown scene" with a bunch of different bands deriving from him and the two saxophonists above: Human Feel (with Kurt Rosenwinkel), Tyft (Hilmar Jensson with Black and D'Angelo), Ellery Eskelin Trio (Eskelin, Black, and Andrea Parkins), and his own band Alasnoaxis (with Speed, Jensson, and Skuli Sverisson). He was/is also a member of the Ben Monder Trio.
Black's playing is really breath-taking from every angle. First, his technique is pretty flawless. His time is just infinitely solid at every subdivision and at every tempo, even during free improvisations with no tempo. However, the side of him that really transcends is his sense of musicality. He is one of the most sensitive drummers/musicians I have ever listened to, and is operating at such a high level of connection and communication with every band he plays in. The passion he puts into the music clearly comes from somewhere deep.
He says of himself: "I'm not a jazz musician, I'm an improvisor." The distinction is really interesting, especially from the musicologist's perspective of trying to define the jazz idiom.
And, completely unlike the tone of this post, he seems to be a really down-to-earth guy.
Anyway, the important stuff - what the guy actually sounds like:
with Human Feel:
with Tim Berne, Chris Speed, Michael Formanek, and Marc Ducret
with Ellery Eskelin and Andrea Parkins (trailer for Eskelin's dvd, narrated by his son Rami)
I wish I had a more varied cross-section of his sound.
Other drummers in a similar vein to Jim Black are Tom Rainey, Nasheet Waits, and John Hollenbeck. All are absolute monsters and definitely worth checking out.
Anybody have anything to say about Jim Black?