A Sarah Hommel Drum All, the second album by percussionist/composer Sarah Hommel, is a live recording of a concert at New York’s Cami Hall documenting music composed by the multitalented drummer for a percussion ensemble featuring Hommel, Mino Cinelu, Victor Jones, Victor Lewis, Bill Ware and Richard Zukor.
On Hommel’s previous release, That Would Be Telling, she proved herself to be a talented songwriter in the jazz tradition, leading from the drum chair an all-star sextet including vibraphonist Steve Nelson, saxophonist Joe Ford, trombonist Frank Lacy, pianist Luis Perdomo and bassist Andy McCloud, through a program comprised entirely of her own music and words.
On A Sarah Hommel Drum All she shows an equally impressive skill for composing melodic music for percussion – a skill honed through years of study with master drummers Michael Carvin, Charii Persip and Max Roach, as well as ensemble members Jones and Lewis. The opening “Should I Be I Prefer Not To” begins dramatically with Cinelu’s hand percussion initiating a musical conversation with the ensemble’s drums and cymbals and Ware’s vibraphone. Hommel solos on timbales, while the other drummers communicate rhythmically, utilizing Afro-Caribbean patterns.
“It’s Not Supposed To Be Any Way” is an episodic piece Hommel describes as having “emerged as I thought about how either through time or experience I am moved to a new point of view.” The composition’s three sections, representing the progressive changes in outlook, are characterized by the different materials of the percussion instruments and their sounds -beginning with metal, moving on to wood and then finally resolving with skin. Hommel commences, creating a metallic sound on African box drum, providing the rhythmic impetus for the entire piece. She’s complemented in the first section by the sounds of metal scrapers cymbals and bells. Sticks strike wooden drum shells and rattles shake during a middle section. The drumheads (made of animal hides) are featured in the next section. The piece fades with the distant rhythms of Hommel’s insistent box drum.
Hommel’s “Dance One For Honi,” a feature for the composer and the ensemble’s three other trap drummers, Victor Jones, Victor Lewis and Richard Zukor, is written in memory of a dear friend -Honi Fern’Haber. Sarah describes the essence of the tune with the quote “we are not human beings on a spiritual journey; we are spiritual beings on a human journey.” Hommel leads off the percussive excursion with a solo, followed by Zukor, Jones and Lewis, in that order.
On “A Tribute Arrangement” Hommel melds her muses into orchestration, moving between adaptations of traditional Haitian and Afro-Cuban rhythms and magical rhythmic moments first experienced in her studies with jazz masters. Inspired by a desire to sing praises for all teachers and to honor all drummers who have carried the torch through time, the arrangement features a reverential vocal chorus led by Hommel and a truly international world music flavor that includes elements of West African drum choirs, traditional Japanese taiko drumming and New Orleans second line parade rhythms. Jones solos with brushes; Cinelu is heard on hand drums and Lewis at the drum kit, while Ware’s vibes provide a funky foundation to parts of the proceedings.
Hommel was inspired to write “Little Luke Early” by a biblical passage from Kings in which God is found not in the powerful elements of the wind, an earthquake or fire, but in “a still small voice.” Constructed upon a delicately improvised xylophone line by Ware that runs all the way through the piece, Hommel’s composed drum parts represent the turbulence that seeks to drown out truth. The composer is heard on concert bass drum with Zukor’s snare drum, Jones’s cowbell, Lewis’s orchestral chimes and Cinelu’s percussion.
“Victor’s Lesson” is an extended piece, composed by Hommel, written to express the joys of studying music. It is a polyrhythmic, tonally dynamic composition with expositions by Ware on marimba, Zukor on cymbals, Cinelu on percussion and Jones on tympani, anchored by Hommel’s drum kit and climaxing with a series of solo breaks by Lewis, Zukor and Cinelu.
The closing “This Is What My Friends Tell Me” is based upon an uplifting lyric by Hommel extolling the value of true friendship, sung by the composer over the parading Caribbean rhythms of Ware’s marimba and the drums of Zukor, Cinelu, Jones and Lewis, who solo as their names are announced to the appreciative applause of the Cami Hall audience, to end the spirited concert.