Debut records can make or break an artist, but it seems that drummer Andrew Munsey already has it figured out. Munsey has worked in the past as a sideman and a producer, but he takes his first step as a bandleader on High Tide. The album features ten strong compositions that are brought to life by a talented quintet. The drummer is joined by Steph Richards (trumpet, flugelhorn), Ochion Jewell (tenor saxophone, kalimba), Amino Belyamani (piano, fender rhodes) and Sam Minaie (double bass).
Despite the fact that these are all Munsey written tunes, he rarely uses them to center himself. Although he does have show stopping moments like the energetic solo towards the end of “Requite”, some of the drummer’s best playing on this album comes in the form of fluid and organic comping. The bandleader supports Jewell’s fine tenor sax solo masterfully during the second half of “Seedling”. This moment, in combination with the progressive nature of the tune as a whole, makes it a stand out song of High Tide. It moves from the military rigor of its opening minute to a spacey piano trio middle portion and eventually introduces another strength of the record – the contrast between the styles of Richards and Jewell.
On “Seedling”, the warm tone of Jewell’s saxophone solo is directly followed by the contorted and abrasive delivery of Richards’ trumpet. This interesting juxtaposition is heard again on “Les Cinq Doigts: Lento”, where Richards plays harsher thin notes during Jewell’s smooth solo. The trumpeter brings an intriguing discord to the quintet that is particularly well used in the album’s more cavernous tunes such as “Undertow”. The track has an eerie combination of bass arco, deep percussion and scratchy horns that creates a mesmerizing atmosphere akin to floating through the unknown. Richards cuts through the rest of the band in the second half of the tune, wailing with a sharp, elephant-like cry.
“Undertow” is followed by the foreboding atmosphere and focus on rhythm found in “Schema”. Drums, piano and bass combine to create an entrancing stern groove, each acting as separate cog in Munsey’s well oiled machine of a composition. Things build in intensity as the track goes on, with the horn parts becoming increasingly more ominous. Both Munsey and Minaie ease from the main groove into sections of skillful improvisation, with the bandleader in particular putting in some extremely impressive work before things wind down.
The hypnotic rhythmic work of “Schema” is one of many strong examples of the talent on display throughout High Tide. Things like the gorgeous atmospheric nature of “Driftwood” make it clear that there is a deep understanding between the musicians of this quintet. Munsey may have just recently started recording his compositions, but based on the evidence here, he has an extremely promising future ahead of him.
High Tide, the debut album by drummer Andrew Munsey is out now on Birdwatcher Records.
Andrew Munsey, drums
Steph Richards, trumpet and flugelhorn
Ochion Jewell, tenor saxophone and kalimba
Amino Belyamani, piano and fender rhodes
Sam Minaie, double bass
Recorded at The Bunker Studio, Brooklyn, NY
Andy Plovnick and Todd Carder, recording engineers
Steven Hollwedel, assistant
Artwork by Aaron Vinton
Produced, mixed and mastered by Andrew Munsey
All compositions by Andrew Munsey, Sky/Line Music (ASCAP), except Les Cinq Doigts: Lento by Igor Stravinsky.
Brian Kiwanuka is a writer‚ attorney and music nerd but not in that order. He digs Armand Hammer‚ Alice Coltrane and Stevie Wonder and occasionally subjects his friends to detailed rants about music. You can check out more of his writing on 93 Million Miles Above.