Drummers, even the rare ones who find fame, are enablers. They spend the bulk of their time refocusing the spotlight on others. It's no different on Nommo, the sterling new quartet release by Turkish-born Ferit Odman. He assembled a thoughtful group of notables for sessions held in Brooklyn, N.Y., and then smartly allowed each of them to join the conversation.
The result is a collaborative, almost communal, effort, as if Nommo was put together over a series of long talks at the kitchen table.
Odman begins with a sizzling-hot appetizer: The Eternal Triangle," a quintessential Sonny Stitt bop blowing session from his seminal 1957 recording with Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins, Sonny Side Up. Trumpeter Brian Lynch takes a brightly swinging turn before saxophonist Vincent Herring begins a propulsive exploration. Odman is a juggernaut behind them, pushing the action along with wit and power. By the time pianist Burak Bedikyan, a fellow Turk, nudges in with a smart and swinging interlude, Nommo has established a crackling intensity.
Rob Roy," a newer composition by Oscar Peterson from 1996's Meets Roy Hargrove and Ralph Moore, spotlights the symbiotic relationship Odman quickly developed with bassist Peter Washington, a former member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers who has appeared on countless jazz recordings. They perform like two halves of the same heart, pulsing and contracting behind a series of brilliant conceptions by the soloists. Bedikyan's supple turn on the piano is a highlight.
As the entrée, Odman and Co. offer two different versions of the title track, written by Jymie Merritt, a bassist who recorded 10 albums with Art Blakey between 1958-62. The initial take on Nommo," athletic and angular, recalls the memorable version on 1966's Drums Unlimited by Max Roach, where the drumming legend tore this song to shreds. A second version, meanwhile, feels like a slow-motion replay of the rippling hard-bop polyrhythms found on those Jazz Messengers recordings.
On To Wisdom, The Prize," a 2007 composition by former Jackie McLean and Hugh Masekela sideman Larry Willis, Odman downshifts into a contemplative swing. Lynch, who has played with Phil Woods and won a Grammy with Eddie Palmieri, solos with a direct, disarming emotion.
Tadd's Delight," by multi-talented composer Tadd Dameron, remains a rousing stop-start exercise in post-bop flexibility. Lynch opens with a cool, edgy turn that recalls this tune's most memorable version in the straight-ahead style, from 1955's Round about Midnight by Miles Davis. Herring then steps forward, playing John Coltrane to Lynch's cerulean Davis, and adds a thrilling turbulence.
Mr. A.T.," Walter Bolden's title track for a 1991 recording by Art Taylor, boasts an easy afternoon sway, as Herring and Lynch work in tandem before taking impressive solo turns.
An expected saxophone showcase doesn't materialize on Charlie Parker's An Oscar for Treadwell," written in honor of a jazz-loving disc jockey and definitively recorded with Gillespie on 1950's Bird and Diz. Instead, once again, the whole band is featured by turns. First, Bedikyan expertly fronts a brashly grooving trio sequence with Odman and Washington, before interludes by Lynch and then, most interestingly, by the saxophonist. Instead of a cascading sheets-of-sound outburst, we're treated to a slow burn by Herring, who famously toured with Lionel Hampton's big band, and has also appeared with Wynton Marsalis and Gillespie, among others.
Odman closes with a pastoral ballad, this perfect dessert aperitif, called Good Times" by fellow Turkish jazz musician Aydin Esen, a pianist alongside Gary Burton, Eddie Gomez and Pat Metheny, among others. Even here, Bedikyan's swirls and strides are couched in this lithe interplay between Washington and Odman.