How do you approach a solo recording session as a drummer? Especially as a drummer that does not seem to believe in drum solos?
What challenges does such a format pose to a musician with a penchant for nurturing long-lasting collaborations rather than pursuing vanity projects?
Does a solo album leave room for at least some degree of self-effacement? Does one have to lose any ability to not take himself too seriously after embarking on a solo project?
You know... the kind of questions that make any serious music fan want to immediately tear the shrink-wrap apart, put the vinyl on the turntable and let the loudspeakers solve the mystery.
A possible answer to all these questions could be: you just don't plan to record a solo album. You let it happen. As naturally as the response you give on stage while interacting with your bandmates. Except that the call to this response did not come on stage but was delivered in the form of a suggestion from a producer and recording engineer. The fact that the producer and recording engineer was Philippe Teissier du Cros, and that he is himself a drummer, rendered the process all the more natural. The fact that it all started under the disguise of suddenly testing a new high-resolution streaming website took away any chance for overthinking the process.
To the ears of those who have always been intrigued by solo drum albums Here
will sound rare in how it's not a display of technique but one of musicality. Those who are well versed in the eclectic work of Steve Arguelles
will find themselves at times hearing familiar melodies and chords in between these unaccompanied beats. It could be the airy joyful atmosphere of Busy Listening
(Babel Records, 1994) or Circuit
(Babel Records, 1998) that seem to lure in the back of "Side Riding of Old Jazz Folk." "Looped Unlooped" sounds like the launching pad of one of his electronic projects on Plush Records. "Double Shuffle with the Town Travellers" conjures up his collaboration with the members of the South African London diaspora.
If you have always shied away from solo drum projects, then you are in luck as there could be no better album to start your exploration of this format. These are tracks you can find yourself singing in the shower. This is not martial drumming, but percussive storytelling. Steve Argüelles plays the drums as if it were a piano, with an attention to its melodic aspects as much as to its rhythmic ones.
If you are not familiar with Steve Argüelles, I envy you for what you're about to discover. This album may not be a "Greatest Hits"pun intendedhowever, the nine tracks of Here
not only provide an insight into Steve Argüelles' state of the drumming art, but also offer an opportunity to look back at a career that spans over four decades.
Through the grooves of this vinyl, one can almost picture a budding Steve Argüelles practicing at home along to the albums of his heroes. Back then Earth, Wind & Fire
or Milt Jackson
on a Rotel turntable in his bedroom; here the guiding spirits of Lol Coxhill
, Steve Lacy
, Lee Konitz
and Kenny Wheeler
, on a vintage Teppaz gramophone in the resonating space of the Temple Saint Marcel in Paris.
Through the deference towards such historic players one can almost witness the excitement of his first encounters with those and other important musicians when Argüelles was an emerging player in the happening London scene of the 1980s, as the drummer of the house band at Ronnie Scott's.
The placement of these four duos at the center of the album's tracklist comes across as a testimony of both that love for found sounds and recordings that was behind The Recyclersthe seminal trio he established with Benoit Delbecq
and Noël Akchoté
in the 1990s and that he continues to co-lead with a new line up featuring Christophe «Disco» Minck instead of Akchotéand, perhaps, of a residual reluctance towards the solo format.
The attention to detail and to the quality of recording on this album reflect Argüelles' commitment to matching great rhythm with quality sound, the same commitment that is behind the concept of the cooperative that he has set up with sonic explorers like Nicolas Becker andonce againBenoit Delbecq, Bureau de Son, a name as much as an artistic manifesto.
Looking at all these aspects together it becomes evident that it was important for Steve Argüelles not to be alone at the drums during this recording session, but to play with all the versions of himself that he has been over the years, and to bring along many of those he has played with as well as all those he has looked up to. A truly choral/collective solo that comes out almost as an Escher infinity loop, where a new step, or beat, may look or sound like the one before, but it's not quite and you may end up upside-down. So in character with a drummer that doesn't play time, but prefers to play with time.
Like the best story-tellers Steve Argüelles knows how to build a story luring you with the comfort of the familiar, grabbing your attention with the promise of the unfamiliar, delivering the punch line with the rhythms you'll be singing in the shower, and leaving you wanting more. In the process he will have built his trademark bridge between past, present and future. Because, after all, isn't that what recycling is all about? Making sure that things don't get forgotten in this single-use society.
Talk about militant music!
Home can be purchased here.
Hire Ludovico Granvassu to write your album's liner notes.
Improvisations that Speak with Admirations; Side Riding of Old Jazz Folk; The Scene of a Dues Paying Member; Here for Lol Coxhill; Here for Steve Lacy; Here for Lee Konitz; Here for Kenny Wheeler; Looped Unlooped; Double Shuffle with the Town Travellers