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Percussion, integrated

By Leon Parker

Columbia Records: 1996

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This review first appeared in the October 25, 1996 issue of the North County Times.

Whoa – what is this? Who is this? That's gotta be a common reaction to anyone hearing this album for the first time.

"Who" is Leon Parker, drummer. "What" is a whirling, swirling, percussion-based jazz with strains of Tony Williams and Paulinho da Costa, Buddy Rich and Mongo Santamaria.

Parker takes hand drums and other percussion from around the world and incorporates them into his music so fully, so naturally that instruments like ashiko, dumbek and congas are not the gimmicks they often are in other bands, but instead bring different shades to the driving beat that frames every song on "Belief." (And where else can you hear Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" arranged as a Latin dance number with a steel drum playing the lead and hand claps providing the dominant rhythmmic figure?)

The result is that this is one of those albums that kinda gets stuck in the stereo, an album that forces you to finally figure out how to use the "repeat" feature on your CD player. It's much more than just a showcase for Parker's considerable drumming skills; it's a complete package of oustanding compositions and great horn playing on top of his always intriguing, swinging backbeat.