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Dreams Untold by Colin Stranahan Quintet

Listen to Dreams Untold with an open mind and an open ear. Without prejudice. Or preconceptions. For Dreams Untold is led by Colin Stranahan, a 17-year-old junior at the Denver School of the Arts when the CD was recorded, and he’s certainly a prodigy, not only as a sensitive drummer but also as a composer. The term "prodigy" is not used in the sense that Stranahan is playing "important" music that clobbers listeners over the head with serious intellectual issues, but rather being comparable with some degree of exaggeration to make a point to the experience of hearing, say, Tony Williams or Clifford Brown as teens when they wowed locals with their talent. It’s hard to tell where Stranahan will end up as his already developed skills advance even more, particularly in association with professional jazz musicians. However, even as a high school student in a city far from the jazz nerve center of New York City, Stranahan has attracted the attention and support of jazz musicians as diverse as Jeremy Pelt, Javon Jackson, Victor Goines and Marcus Printup.

It’s easy to hear why. First of all, Stranahan lets the music dictate his approach to the drumming, rather than employing the same technique, or similar elements of style, in all of his playing. And second of all, the music that Stranahan brings to life is his own, four of the six tracks on Dreams Untold being his compositions.

His first original tune, after Coltrane’s "26-2," is "Romaine’s Groove," a twisting and backbeat-driven theme propelling a repetitive lick stated by Kenny Warren’s trumpet and Michael Bailey’s tenor sax. With infectious funk, on-the-mark halts and liquidity of phrasing, both of the hornmen, like Stranahan, let the nature of the music drive their solos. And they, Stranahan’s elders at 19 years old, are as precocious and immersed in the flow as he.

Perhaps intentionally, Stranahan varies the music to reflect alternative moods the initial metrical freedom of "As If The Dream Were Untold," inspired by a nightmare revealed in three-four time, is entirely removed from the hard bop sensibility of "Now I’m Up," its blues origins allowing for final improvisation by Stranahan’s group. And Stranahan makes interesting choices, like laying back on "The Arrival" and then combining swing with a feeling of three within. Even though pianist Jeff Jenkins (the most experienced member of Stranahan’s septet) stands out on the piece he wrote, "The Arrival," a ballad for piano trio played in straight four behind which Stranahan brushes, it does become evident, despite the drummer’s subtlety, that this is a drum-led CD. Even as the horns are playing, Stranahan is driving them, and it’s impossible to ignore his propulsion and tasteful embellishment of the performances, which would have been certainly less colorful without the spark plug of a drummer synchronizing all of the cylinders of his band.

And so, the advice is thus: Forget about the age of the musicians. Sit back and enjoy the music of Dreams Untold, which is as polished and invigorating at times as that of better-known groups. And think of the many more years of enriching music that Colin Stranahan may provide.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Colin Stranahan Quintet
  • CD Title: Dreams Untold
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Capri Records
  • Musicians: Colin Stranahan, drums, composer, leader. Michael Bailey, tenor saxophone. Kenny Warren, trumpet. Jeff Jenkins, piano. Ken Walker, bass. Special guests on tracks 3 and 5 are Ron Miles on trumpet and Jim Stranahan on soprano saxophone.
  • Rating: Four Stars
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