4 1/2 STARS - TOP 50 RECORDINGS OF 2021
Time Frames is Michael Waldrop's fourth album, in collaboration with some of the most well-known names in percussion, including Gordon Stout and Marko Djordjevic. Showcasing compositions by Waldrop, Stout and others, this album features the marimba as the main melodic voice and rhythmic timekeeper. The instrumentation consists of mostly percussion, with the exception of piano and double bass on a few works, and some electronic sequencing.
The opening track, "Fractals" serves as an introduction for the album. The other marimba compositions written by Waldrop have a similar timbral aesthetic, consisting of layered marimba and percussion and an additional bass part that he sequenced and synthesized from a tuned hand drum sound. The use of static marimba ostinatos is not only a nod to minimalism, but also provides a cool, laid-back groove that distracts from the academic air of the chamber works. Brad Dutz and Jose Rossy provided the tasteful percussion accompaniments on these tracks. One of Waldrop's marimba compositions, "Sixth Chakra" employs an innovative six-mallet technique (holding three mallets in each hand). Also apparent is Waldrop's concept of presenting the marimba in terms of its origins as an African percussion instrument, in a rhythmically supportive role.
"Katrina's Path" is a three-part suite for two drum sets composed by Waldrop, thematically modeled after the path of the devastating Hurricane Katrina from 2005. This suite is a tempestuous conversation between two drummers, with each movement having a regionally-specific stylistic theme. Waldrop plays an improvised solo on "Brazil," Djordjevic on "Cuba," and they trade solos on "New Orleans." Although there are some passages where both drummers are playing in unison, the fusion of improvised and precomposed music is seamless. Time Frames reveals an unseen facet of Waldrop's musical individuality in this departure from his previous three albums of jazz.