I felt bad about questioning Billy Drummond’s work on Kris Davis’ Duopoly album yesterday. I’m not deeply familiar with Drummond’s playing but of course I know and respect the name. And while I have the right to like or not like any given piece of music, I’m starting to think I could better appreciate Drummond’s contributions to the album given different expectations.
While I wonder if Drummond held back too much on Duopoly, I’m not saying he should have gone for fireworks. One possibility is that he didn’t want to overshadow Davis; another is that he had set his mind toward focusing on subtleties rather than fire, which is certainly a valid goal. There’s no way to know. (And I’m trying not to judge by the video. Discerning a person’s thoughts by watching them on video is not as easy as you think, especially if they know they’re being filmed.)
Philosophical questions aside, I felt I owed it to the music gods to seek out a dose of full-strength Drummond. I’ve certainly heard of him but don’t happen to own any of his output. I wanted something fairly recent, as opposed to his ’90s straightahead albums on Criss Cross, and maybe something a little off-kilter too. I didn’t expect to find anything flat-out avant-garde in his catalogue, but that was part of the point: to applaud Drummond’s willingness to step into that world for the sake of the Duopoly project.
What I found was the track “Hydrogen Atom” by pianist Burak Bedikyan, from Leap of Faith (Steeplechase, 2015). It has a relatively disjointed opening, with lots of free space, and gives Drummond some explosive moments. He has a solo as well, which tends toward the understated side — much as his work on Duopoly did. That might partly be because his solo on “Hydrogen Atom” is also the gateway into the cooldown theme at the end of the song.
It’s nice work. Maybe I’ll also take in one of those Criss Cross albums as well, before I give the Duopoly tracks another listen.