Monday, August 29, 2011

Scott McLemore: Found Music

Scott McLemore (drums)
Found Music (Fresh Sound/New Talent; 2006)
Tony Malaby (sax)
Ben Street (bass)
Ben Monder (guitar)

A fresh discovery for me early this year was the group, ASA Trio from Iceland. I am still in love with their latest release, Plays The Music of Thelonious Monk and I'm already letting everyone know it will be on our top albums of the year list. But while the trio have released one of the standout albums of 2011, I decided to look into one of the members that really struck me--drummer, Scott McLemore.

McLemore, now living in Reykjavik, spent 8 years in Brooklyn developing his skill. He has an impressive CV which includes recording/performing with an intensive list of musicians including, Angelica Sanchez, David Berkman, Tim Berne and his wife, pianist, Sunna Gunnlaugs to name just a few. As a solo artist he has only recorded one album, but it is an amazing record that should not be overlooked. That album is Found Music (Fresh Sound/New Talent).

What is so fascinating about Found Music is McLemore's compositions and leadership. This album was recorded prior to his joining up with ASA Trio but it shows a musician who had a host of ideas and circled himself with set of musicians who could execute it superbly. The album is subtle but with pockets of fierce individual performances. "If You Wish" and "Ambiguity" are both relaxed moments where Malaby and McLemore shine with a modern contemporary resonance.

The diversity of McLemore's playing as it does with ASA Trio reminds me of agility of the late Billy Higgins and Paul Motian. And as with Higgins, McLemore gives his bandmates the space to breath and create a sound that lets the listener sit back imagine and enjoy. Ben Street delivers the long opening recitation for "Safe From The World" that only underscores what an important bass player he continues to be. Here, McLemore settles in the background allowing the rest of the quartet to step up and transform the piece with great beauty.

"At No Cost To You" is McLemore's salvo, illustrating that this young talent means business behind the kit as well as a being the composer. Each member has a nice dueling session with the leader on this track and its fun to absorb and crank louder and louder with repeated listens. The group come together with a raucous unity towards the end that is just simply awesome.

"Worldly Possession" is probably the most eclectic piece on Found Music. It's also the longest. An intense, rolling and momentum building set of chords by Monder help make the piece a bit of Marc Ribot-esque exploration. Street bends the notes while McLemore adds a thumbing and seductive rhythm just underneath.

Found Music is one of those little undiscovered treasures that you're always looking for. But it is also a document of a musician who would later expand his skill in partnership with one of the best up and coming trios of the last few years. This is the "secret origins" of a talented new artist and composer on the scene. Here's to seeing a new Scott McLemore record soon. Found Music is still readily available so please search it out. A must listen for sure.

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