In exploring a choice big band recording by Michael Waldrop called Time Within Itself, I noticed another former One O’Clock drummer who also recorded at the same studio: Crystal Clear Sound. I noticed on their client list a plethora of musicians from and/or well known in North Texas such as Brave Combo, UNT One O’Clock Lab band, UNT Jazz Singers, Reverend Horton Heat and many others I may not be aware of since I no longer live in North Texas.
But I checked out their facebook page and saw this photo, and I was curious and wanted to hear him. Instead of waiting for a publicist which is how writers generally get jazz music, I just bought Patina on emusic. That’s right, a writer actually buying the music. It happens.
Let me just say that Texas has produced some amazing drummers. I don’t have a list, but we can start with Michael Waldrop and Stockton Helbing. I remember discovering pianist Jean-Michel Pilc years ago, and yes, his drummer was former UNT One O’Clocker Ari Hoenig. Maybe it’s something UNT professor Ed Soph puts in the water, but the drummers from Denton. Man oh man! I’ll never forget seeing Hoenig with the Jazz Mandolin Project, a kind of jam band with a twist, emulating stock drum loops and beats, only on his real set. That was amazing.
But today let’s discuss Patina. I loved this record, and the way it came together seemed to force Helbing to go out of his comfort zone, and sometimes when a musician does that they get unexpected, creative results. The album includes a five-movement suite of music dedicated to the late jewelry designer Arthur Smith, that Helbing wrote for the Dallas Museum of Art. The museum also contracted the Dallas Black Dance Theater to choreograph and perform over three of the pieces of the suite, and requested songs with no improvisation, which is not something jazz musicians are used to hearing. In addition the museum had no piano, and the result was music without chords (just the trio of James Driscoll on bass, the great Shelley Carrol on sax and Helbing on of course drums), and without extended improvisations. It makes for a fascinating suite of music that is well composed and performed, and the album features 4 other tunes that use not only Carrol but David Lown also on tenor. All but Carrol are UNT connected, but when the four perform tunes familiar to the 3 Texas players, but not to Carrol, it makes for a spirited interchange.
Helbing, who made his name playing for big bands even after UNT (he has played extensively with both Maynard, and Doc Severinson among many other big names), has branched out as a talented composer and arranger, producer and record label entrepreneur.
I really enjoyed Patina. It seems I enjoy almost anything that has Stockton Helbing on drums. A great talent you’ll be hearing more about.