ReviewsThis CD presents the drumming of New York drummer Paul Samuels in a wonderful group, featuring saxophonist Greg Osby, Dan Wallon organ and Jamey Haddad on percussion. Samuels has performed and recorded with the likes ofJames Moody, David "Fathead" Newman and Pat Martino. Here his drumming is showcased in musical settings that emphasize his sensitive musicianship rather than pyro-technics.
The recording opens with a rousing rendition of Monk's "TrinkleTinkle" that sets the pace in terms of the drums and soloists. Samuels consistently finds the balance between interactive accompanying and providing an excellent supporting groove. Other highlights include an inventive arrangement of Coltrane's "Naima" (featuring Haddad on percussion) and "The Blessing," by Ornette Coleman. Samuels' brushwork on "Ruby MyDear" is also very sensitive, always providing an appropriate level of energy to inspire the soloist.
Samuels' formidable chops come into play on "ESP," by Wayne Shorter, where he performs in amore conversational style through-out. His playing behind Osby's solo is particularly exciting. Paul Samuels has all bases covered when it comes to jazz drumming.
I've always regarded the ultimate jazz album as being totally transparent.
When you need it to lay out in the background as you read, muddle through 6:00PM traffic or enjoy a quiet evening with your sweetheart, the music is thoughtfully unobtrusive, yet provides the perfect ambience. When you're ready to crank it up for more critical listening, it confidently assumes center stage, revealing all of the nuances and character to captivate and transform you into artist's world.
Drummer Paul Samuels has released such a record. His first. A debut that is as intensifying as it is warm and engaging. Recorded in his hometown of Cleveland, Paul enlists the services of stellar saxophonist Greg Osby, brilliant organist & educator Dan Wall and extraordinary percussionist Jamey Haddad who create a remarkable atmosphere of vivid music.
This set wastes no times in setting the mood with Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle" where Osby and Wall begin interweaving the melody like two psychologists reconstructing a paradigm. The feel is cozy, moving and the arc of the groove is juxtaposed against the agile foot of Wall who is rocking the bass line from the pedals. You know you're in for an incredible ride.
"Simone," a Frank Foster classic you never tire of hearing follows with a subtle sway that allows Wall to grace us with his aura. A true master of the B3, he addresses us early with a vibrant solo that sets the tone for Mr. Osby to transport us into the next horizon. Samuels, who has laid down a tight foundation from the fore gets to dance merrily underneath the drama, without interrupting the flow. Perfect!
Haddad steps forward on Coltrane's "Naima" with delicate whispers from his percussive treasuries to underscore the reality that Greg has now switched to a seductive soprano sax as the entire band adorns this beautiful ballad with Northeastern Ohio's greatest minds. (Wall & Haddad are also native Clevelanders.) This is a chilling arrangement.
"Speak," the album's title track and only original composition [Samuels, Osby, Wall] is also my favorite. It captures the majesty of exploration as each player enters the 'fun zone' displaying individual and aggregative elements of their soul, which always organically surfaces in your song. This tune begs for repeated listening.
Wayne Shorter's "Fall" finds Osby back on his engaging soprano as the assembly again liquifies this unique verse into a commixture of beauty and mystique. Wall's B3 is incredibly sensual and calming and the entire arrangement is engulfed by Samuel's sensitive cymbal work and sumptuous drum fills. The song is an excellent cascade of color and symmetry.
Then we are whisked right back into the swing of things with Coleman's roguish offering "The Blessing." A splendid conversation between Osby, Wall & Samuels builds and deconstructs again as they settle the matter of melody, groove and bop within the confines of Wall's infectious bass line.
"Ruby, My Dear" is given far more than a proper nod as the guys explore the other side of Monk's unique character. Samuels' excellent brushwork is enticing. Osby's lovely alto invites a warm response from Wall's charismatic chops. My second favorite tune! It's always a pleasure to think you know a song completely and to then discover an innovative rendition that makes you rethink the original is the essence of jazz. Monk is smiling.
Shorter's "ESP" rounds out the engagement with a thrilling solo by the effervescent Wall, whose layering of notes, meter and feel affirms his true genius. This arrangement is alive with tension, intrigue and supposition. Samuels moves out of the way to give Osby room to make his opening statement and then returns for a thrilling exchange of thought provoking discussion which leads to a tapered climax that fades as Wall joins the two for a summation.
Included at the end of this disc are two radio edits of "Naima" & "Simone." Herein lies one of my tiny disappointments with the entire release. I would've much rather preferred two added original compositions from the trio, seeing as how they created such incredible energy with "Speak." I am hoping that the future provides them another opportunity to collaborate, as I am sure they are destined to create new standards for the next generation to study and improve upon as they have clearly done with the covers represented here.
While Paul Samuels doesn't possess the dexterity of a Dave Weckl or the fire of "Tain" Watts in a similar setting (but then again who does?) he is an incredible drummer with loads of fiery chops and a distinction for passion that shows through on every cut. I would have thought that this set would be laden with many solos showcasing magnificent feats of challenge and dare, being his debut; but Paul gracefully opts for an ensemble role, creating the perfect canvas for Osby and Wall to paint upon. Another selfish lament is that I would have loved to hear more percussion work from the splendid Jamey Haddad, who is without a doubt king of his domain. I felt there were plenty of spaces for more interplay between percussion and drums without complicating the rhythm or stepping on the melody, but it's fair to say that as a drummer, I have a personal bias.
What's unmistakably obvious is that this is a stellar recording with the most excellent musicians you could ask for. If you are a jazz lover, you will thoroughly enjoy this album!
C. Andrew Hovan's JJA 2006 Top 10
As a drummer, accompanist and jazz band leader, Cleveland Heights native Paul Samuels has been performing for over 30 years. His resume alone would fill up all the bandwidth set aside for this review, including work with local greats like Gerald Levert and Ernie Krivda. Yet, Samuels still considers himself a "work in progress," as any of the press you find on him suggests.
Humble nature aside, Samuels has an insightful style—one that is disarmingly tactile and oozes charm and sophistication. He'd probably tell you the influence of his father (a violinist in the Cleveland Orchestra), and mother (a designer and creator of visual art), were critical during his more formative years. But the lifetime of experience listeners will enjoy on Samuels' debut release Speak is clearly all his own.
Speak is a delectable, 10-track affair recorded, mixed and mastered by Frank Vale at our very own Metrosync Studios. It features Blue Note Recording Artist Greg Osby (saxophone), Herbie Hancock sideman Jamey Haddad (percussion) and master Dan Wall (organ). Samuels has obviously chosen both his sidemen and the set list for Speak carefully, showcasing works from some of the genre's compositional legends. The results simply command attention.
Tracks written by Coltrane, Shorter, Monk and Frank Foster comprise the effort, with silky and dead sexy grooves aplomb. Hepcat metronome that he is, Samuels is all about deftly driving the pieces along. Tracks like Coltrane's "Naima," Monk's sultry "Ruby, My Dear" and his self-penned title cut provide little doubt why Samuels is one of Cleveland's premier jazz names an "in-demand" cornerstone of the New York scene as well.
He has great instincts. If you're a jazz fan, trust yours and pick this up. You'll be glad you did.
Paul Samuels will perform with Greg Osby and Dan Wall at Nighttown, 12387 Cedar Rd in Cleveland Heights on Thursday, March 30, with shows at 8 and 10 pm. For details, log on to http://www.nighttowncleveland.com/ . Samuels returns the following week with an in-store promotion, CD signing and performance at Borders at Severance Town Center on April 5 at 7pm. Call 291-8605 for details.
The rhythmic pulse of the drum is the heartbeat of music, yet a skilled jazz drummer can add more than just a steady beat—also providing vibrancy and color to the music. Paul Samuels began learning this early on when his father took him to jazz concerts by musicians like McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie and the great drummer Tony Williams. He also honed his abilities professionally, playing in different settings with many artists, including sax innovator Greg Osby, with whom Samuels recorded with in the early '80s.
Samuels now shines brightly on this outstanding debut, leading an ensemble with Osby, organist Dan Wall, and percussionist and Jamey Haddad. The recording reveals the drummer's abilities and leadership as each musician provides a unique voice to music that Samuels says "keeps one foot in the past and one foot in the future."
Featuring fresh readings of standards and new compositions, the music not only swings, but also flows and breathes sophistication. Samuels' playing is not about grandstanding, and instead of superfluous drum spotlights he expertly speaks within the music, filling the spaces with a variety of patterns and cadences, using everything at his disposal: technical prowess, intuitive interaction and feeling.
The vibe is set on Thelonious Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle" as this atypical organ trio exudes a sound that's closer to the great organist Larry Young than the average greasy B3 recording. Osby's signature sound, which is darting, fluid, and precise, is mirrored stylistically by Dan Wall, a progressive and underrated organist.
A fine example of the music's openess is "Simone," which commences with a stylish and snappy drum intro, Osby singing the melody, and an extended statement from Wall's chilled organ. At the center is Samuels' percolating trap work, with rim shots, flurried taps and a driving beat as the tune ends with organ and alto sax trading voices.
Of the many highlights, the cover of John Coltrane's "Naima" lingers longest in memory. A melodic tom-tom pattern threads through the music, along with an array of peculiar yet wondrous sounds by percussionist Haddad. Other high points include Samuels' mallet and cymbal work on the blissful "Fall," the bluesy free-boppin' title song, and the intense "ESP," where the musicians individually and collectively speak volumes. Fervently recommended.