By Hrayr Attarian
Eric Binder Hard Bop
Eric Binder – Drums
Walter Smith III – Tenor saxophone
Petros Klampanis – Double bass
In addition to being an accomplished drummer, author, and educator, Eric Binder is a versatile composer. He has penned music for outfits of various sizes, however, he is most at home writing for small ensembles. His regrettably brief Hard Bop showcases six of his captivating originals in an intimate trio setting. Despite its title, the current release is not a formulaic replica of the 1950s records of that genre. It draws inspiration from them—yet it is definitely contemporary and quite unique.
The soulful “Blues Jawn,” for instance, is a passionate tune with tight rhythmic vamps buoying saxophonist Walter Smith III’s swaggering, muscular tenor. Smith seamlessly transitions from stating the main theme to an intelligent and exciting improvisation, while bassist Petros Klampanis crafts an eloquent solo out of his crisp, walking lines. Binder’s rumbling beats propel the performance with agility and vigor.
In contrast, on the dark and wistful “To Be Alone” the ambience is chamber-like, with an elegant, meandering three way conversation. Perhaps here Binder is channeling his early Western classical education. Over his rustling brushes, Smith and Klampanis embellish the melody with emotive sophistication and inventive lyricism. The result is a haunting work that mesmerizes and delights.
Equally dramatic is the brooding “Luna.” The tense collective extemporisation creates a captivating mood with cinematic flair and subtle poetry. The intergroup synergy is best heard, though, on the effervescent “BFTF.” After Smith’s and Klampanis’ respective, thrilling turns in the spotlight, Binder and his sidemen weave a densely textured and intriguing sonic tapestry that bristles with spontaneity.
Despite its length of less than half an hour, Hard Bop packs an artistic punch. The charismatic band interprets the stimulating and emotive compositions with suaveness and brilliance. Thus, the album is simultaneously thought provoking and accessible, attributes that should contribute to a wide appeal.