By Bill Milkowski | Published July 2019
Matt Slocum has been building a rep on the New York scene during the past decade. And on Sanctuary, his fifth leader date, Slocum joins bassist Larry Grenadier and the refined and swinging pianist Gerald Clayton, his onetime USC classmate and frequent collaborator. A musical drummer rather than a chopsy basher, Slocum underscores the proceedings with a deftly understated yet highly interactive touch in the spirit of Roy Haynes’ conversational playing on Chick Corea’s 1968 Now He Sings, Now He Sobs.
Sanctuary kicks off with what sounds like an outtake from Grenadier’s recent solo bass outing, The Gleaner. A minute into his solo-bass excursion on the intimate waltz-time opener, “Romulus,” pianist Clayton enters gracefully as Slocum sets the tone with delicate brushwork. The trio’s treatment of this poignant Sufjan Stevens melody recalls the way Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio treats Gershwin, Kern, Porter or Berlin—alluding to the melody while exploring its unique group-think.
Slocum’s simmering rhythmic presence fuels some adventurous stretching by Clayton and Grenadier on “Consolation Prize,” the drummer’s swinging contrafact of Irving Berlin’s “The Best Thing For You,” while his gift for composing affecting melodies comes across on the lovely “Aspen Island” (based on Chopin’s “Prelude In E-Minor”) and his relaxed brushes ballad, “Star Prairie.” The jaunty swinger “Days Of Peace” showcases some animated call-and-response between drums and bass, and Slocum’s penchant for probing darker terrain is represented by sparse rubato number “A Dissolving Alliance.” An exceptional outing.
Sanctuary: Romulus; Consolation Prize; Aspen Island; Star Prairie; A Dissolving Alliance; Days Of Peace; Sanctuary; Anselmo. (42:07)
Personnel: Matt Slocum, drums; Gerald Clayton, piano; Larry Grenadier, bass.