Drummer EJ Strickland has a new album, The Undying Spirit, coming out next week. (Pre-order it from Amazon.) It’s only his second album as a leader, though he’s worked quite a bit with saxophonist Marcus Strickland, who’s also his twin brother. Indeed, The Undying Spirit features both brothers, and is being released on their own label, Strick Music. The band also includes alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, pianist Luis Perdomo, and bassist Linda Oh.
Nine of the album’s 10 tracks are composed by the drummer; the other is a version of pianist Cedar Walton‘s “Hindsight.” It all kicks off with “Ride,” a groove piece that sets Strickland’s snapping, intricately funky drumming and Oh’s subtle, intuitive bass playing alongside Perdomo’s piano montunos and winding horn lines from the saxophonists. Throughout the album, the melodies have a sprawling, meandering quality that’s very modern, without coming off like music-school trickery. And there’s a strong element of Latin music present, mostly due to what Perdomo’s playing. But when the group slows down on the ballads, they’re able to sway gently without dissolving the music into room spray. There’s a lot of talent here, and it’s deployed very skillfully.