Best Jazz Drummer (2010)

Tyshawn Sorey

In February, saxophonist J.D. Allen brought his trio to the Village Vanguard, but J.D. and the other guy might as well not have shown up—they were overpowered, gloriously and quite literally, by drummer Tyshawn Sorey, who bashed away with sticks, brushes, and bare hands like a one-man natural disaster. At one point, a shard of a drumstick shot roughly 10 feet into the crowd—it would be an honor to be hospitalized in such a manner. Half a year later, Sorey led his own group during a brief residency at the tiny Soho spot Roulette, and the contrast couldn't have been greater: The quartet did a nearly-90-minute free-jazz elegy, soft and delicate and barely audible. Sorey, who composed the piece, often barely grazed the cymbals he'd pounded into submission just months earlier, the creaking of his stool as prominent a sound as anything else. Afterward, he did a brief Q&A session, eruditely chatting about modular forms, the drums as an extension of himself, and the "axis between being audible and inaudible." As a stunning display of range, those two shows couldn't have been more impressive. A longtime NYC mainstay both in clubs and on record (his 2007 debut, That/Not, was a double disc with 70 minutes of online-only bonus content), he spends most of his time in Connecticut these days, but he's worth seeing whenever he ventures down here. Be prepared for anything.


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