If Michael Lauren was – until recently – ominously quiet, he is no longer so. And his latest burst of joyful noise suggests that the Portugal-based drummer is now at the pinnacle of his compositional; at the proverbial heights as a drummer and percussion colourist. He may well, of course, scale greater heights in future, but even if he never achieves anything better, Old School/Fresh Jazz suggests that he has ample reason to be proud.
The album opens with Mr Lauren launching into a broodingly percussive tumbling groove before breaking into a complex, solid boppish piece by Oliver Nelson. “More Soul” introduces us to the All Stars (almost all of whom are Portuguese musicians), and to the promise of rippling, “fresh jazz” that follows. That chart is followed by a slow, slightly mysterious ballad edged “One More for the Road”; a song with a rueful feel. This features some thoughtful solo breaks including one by its composer and guitarist, Nuno Ferreira. The magnificent grooves developed and sustained throughout by Mr Lauren – together with the superb contrabassist Carlos Barretto, pianist Diogo Vida and vibraphonist Jeffery Davis – provide a firm rhythmic foundation that allows soloists to stretch and relax when the rhythmists take over the spotlight; always taking the music to challenging new heights.
Mr Lauren is always “in the pocket” which is something that soloists must have enjoyed throughout as they could take the music to the moon and back and still find a rock-solid rhythmist waiting for their return. The drummer is also constantly exerting his influence over the proceedings as he rings in the changes in mood, structure and tempo. The music is always interspersed with brief interludes involving Mr Lauren and the other gifted members of the ensemble and this makes for a constantly interesting programme. The superbly mournful one between Mr Lauren and contrabassist Carlos Barretto and between blitzkrieg between the drummer and vibraphonist Jeffery Davis are particularly impressive.
The considerable degree of balance and integration of melody, harmony and rhythm, of composition and improvisation, of intelligent and organic exploration, individuality and tradition is impressively maintained throughout this album to die for.
Track list – 1: A Fresh Jazz (Intro); 2: More Soul; 3: One More for the Road; 4: A Fresh Jazz Drum and Saxophone Duet; 5: The Right Wrong Topic; 6: A Fresh Jazz Drum & Guitar Duet; 7: Lisboa Boogaloo; 8: A Fresh Jazz Drum & Contrabass Duet; 9: You Want It You Got It; 10: A Fresh Jazz Drum & Vibraphone Duet; 11: Wapita; 12: A Fresh Jazz Drum & Piano Duet; 13: Virgin in Times Square; 14: A Fresh Jazz Drum & Trumpet Duet; 15: 2-4; 16: Song of Bernadette
Personnel – Michael Lauren: drums and percussion; Carlos Barretto: contrabass; Diogo Vida: piano and Fender Rhodes; Hugo Alves: trumpet and flugelhorn; Jeffery Davis: vibraphone; José Menezes: tenor saxophone; Nuno Ferreira: guitar; with – Rui Veloso: vocal (16); Michael Crehore: keyboard (16)
Released – 2019
Label – Independent
Runtime – 48:26