Alexander Flood: From Australia with Drums

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“To me, rhythm is not the notes; it’s the space between the notes,” the 25-year-old Flood explained.

(Photo: David Rescue (Pink Sun Productions))

Miles Davis famously advised: “Don’t play what is there, play what is not there.” Alexander Flood incorporates that guidance on his invigorating sophomore album, The Space Between (Ropeadope Records/Stretch Music).

As a skillful drummer and percussionist, he creates grooves that accentuate his versatility and virtuosity in playing multiple cosmopolitan rhythms while allowing the music to breathe and take shape.

“To me, rhythm is not the notes; it’s the space between the notes,” the 25-year-old Flood explained. “If you just have a bunch of notes with no spaces or rests, you just have subdivision. But as soon as you break up the notes with space and rests, then you suddenly have rhythm. It’s the space between the notes that ultimately creates rhythm and variation.”

The Space Between has another connotation. It plays into the polyglot nature of the music on which Flood deftly switches between 21st century soul-jazz and hip-hop and modern jazz fusion, while also infusing rhythms, melodies and textures from West Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Brazil and Asia.

The album kicks off with “All For The Pocket,” a hip-hop manifesto that sounds as if it could have been recorded in Philly, especially thanks to Nelson Dialect’s soulful rhymes and the creamy keyboard flourishes wafting atop Flood’s sinewy backbeats and crackling snare. After Ben Kepron delivers a snazzy electric piano solo followed by Tyler Venter’s howling electric guitar, the rhythm soon evolves into a pulsating go-go groove that would make any Washington, D.C.-based band proud.

Growing up in Adelaide, Australia, Flood didn’t hear go-go music there. But once he got a taste of it, after visiting friends in D.C. three years ago, he was hooked. “When they played some of the music, I thought, ‘Wow! This is some of the funkiest music I’ve ever heard in my life,’” he recalled.

Flood, however, wasn’t content on mimicking go-go music’s distinctive buoyant patterns on his own; he invited Brion “BeeJay” Scott, a master go-go conguero from D.C. — as well as Kepron and his brother Nick, both of whom are also from D.C. — to authenticate the vibe. “I was so fortunate to have their help in piecing it together properly and not just faking go-go music,” Flood said.

Other highlights include the samba-powered “LDN”; the enchanting “Starseed,” which features Vivian Sessoms singing lyrics in English and Nigeria’s Igbo dialect; and the anthemic “Pathways,” which features Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s plangent trumpet passages. Ever since connecting with Adjuah several years ago, first at a jazz festival in Australia then more directly after checking out his shows on a Blue Note at the Sea Cruise, the trumpeter has become a championing mentor for Flood.

“[Adjuah] has been a huge mentor for my musical development both as an artist from the creative side as well someone on the music business side,” Flood enthused. “He helped me understand signing to record labels, getting publishing rights and licensing music. From where I’m from, there’s no easy way of learning all the business side of the music industry. He’s the most generous person in so many ways — with his time, enthusiasm, wisdom and resources.”

When asked what attracts him to Flood’s musicality, Adjuah said,“his openness.”

“We tend to draw lines about which culture is eligible for whatever kind of music, or who can actually play whatever culture,” he said. “Flood is really open-hearted and willing to recognize and reference all of the different cultural perspectives that had light in them.” DB



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