There's no doubt from the downbeat of the first tune on Hittin' The Blue Notes--that tune being "Just Friends"--that this is a drummer's project. In the same way that, say, Art Blakey or Buddy Rich drove their bands, DeMerle establishes an undeniable presence that characterizes his band as well.
First of all, Les DeMerle kicks off the track with an 8-bar introduction (played in 8 seconds), effectively preparing the listener for the intensity of the playing that follows. And when the trumpets come in with the famous lines to the tune, the intensity is magnified to a higher level. With a group of just 8 players, DeMerle, through effective arranging and through the selection of aggressive musicians, accomplishes a much larger sound.
But the energy's the thing. When they respond to DeMerle's push or when they play without drums, as the band does intially on Freddie Hubbard's "First Light," all of the musicians on Hittin' The Blue Notes attain a level of excitement that can't fail to engage an audience.
DeMerle first found inspiration in some of the classic Blue Note albums of the 1950's and 1960's as Alfred Lion allowed some of the soon-to-be-legends to develop their own voices and to record their own music, rather than forcing the homogenization of music that occurs all too often today. Even though the pace and feel of DeMerle's drumming remain consistent throughout the CD, the unique characteristics of the songs he chose--ranging in diversity from those of Horace Silver to Lee Morgan's--provide shades of brightness accentuating the music's colors, and never any darkness or gray. DeMerle's interests are in the swing, communicating directly to listeners with force and extroversion.
As if he couldn't contain his enthusiasm, DeMerle breaks loose in song on "Let The Good Times Roll," his voice raspy and exuberant, as the band sets up a rocking beat accented by Clarence Hines' talking-trombone response to the lyrics that DeMerle sings. On "The Sidewinder," DeMerle sings once more, but this in a vocalese duo with his wife, Bonnie Eisele.
The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band is aptly, if perhaps immodestly, named. But the truth's the truth. His band is dynamic, in large part because of the irresistible beat that DeMerle sets up for each tune, but also because the other members of his band share DeMerle's unabashed love of the Blue Note classics, expressed in tribute with reverence. Without solemnity. But with a propulsive style that's consistent with the inspiring nature of the original recordings of the tunes.