Will Calhoun

Will Calhoun is best known as the drummer in hard-rock cross-over band Living Colour, and his new release isn’t what you might expect. It’s haunted by jazz spirits, most notably late-period Miles Davis, called to life by trumpeter Wallace Roney. Roney sticks in the mute to suggest Tutu-era Davis, playing lyrically on a pair of moody, soft-beat tunes written by Calhoun and bassist Charnett Moffett. Other Davis ties: bassist Ron Carter, a veteran of Miles’ mid- and late-’60s quintet, appears on the Wayne Shorter tune “Etcetera,” featuring alto saxophonist Donald Harrison’s fine musings. More jazz shades drop by. Pianist Marc Cary — great throughout — runs stop-and-go piano chords behind Harrison’s sax on John Coltrane’s “Naima.” Calhoun’s trio arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence” honors the composer’s herky-jerky rhythms even as it brings something new to its form. “Love for Sale,” with John Benitez on bass, carries a Latin feel and serves as a showcase for Calhoun’s simmering brush work. The best pieces here have African influences, especially Cheick Tidiane Seck and Calhoun’s “Afrique Kan’e,” with the buzzy strings of gamelan ngoni blending with Seck’s piano riffs. Roney, still muted, tosses Miles aside to play with vigor and speed. Calhoun’s drumming is never one thing but appropriate to the music’s diverse moods and styles. A surprisingly sophisticated mix, with nothing hard-rock about it.

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