What is it with drummers? They tend to bring with them a (sometimes well earned) reputation of being the most annoying member of the band. And yet there are times when they bring us some of the finest original music we have heard. Tony Williams’ Lifetime, Brian Blade’s Fellowship, Paul Motian’s Trios; to name but a few. Maybe they look at things from a slightly different perspective, but whatever the reason, we are fortunate to have so many recording and performing new compositions in the jazz world. Jerry Kalaf’s “Welcome to Earth” may not hit the dizzy heights of some of the aforementioned artist’s recordings, but it is nonetheless a fine album. This is a captivating mix of quiet, confident lyricism and rich textures – performed as a trio or sextet. Kalaf actually employs three different bands in effect, each one relishing the task of working their melodic majic around Kalaf’s sensitive drumming.
“Welcome to Earth” is Jerry Kalaf’s fourth release as a leader. Having toured extensively with many well- known names in music, and having earned himself quite a reputation for his movie soundtracks, it’s pleasing to hear such sincerity on this release. A very well respected drummer, Kalaf’s compositions are tuneful and at times very compelling. The album opens with the first of three tracks featuring his sextet; “Ambiguity”. With Doug Walter on alto sax, Barry Coates on guitar, Jeff Colella piano, Gabe Davis bass and Scott Breadman adding the percussion, it swoons with its harmonic atmosphere. “Siyaya Samba”, a smooth rich samba, not surprisingly, along with the rhythmic “This one’s for Jim”, dedicated to Jim Hall, make up the other two sextet pieces. Three tunes as a trio see Leonard Thompson on piano and Ryan McGillicuddy on bass join Kalaf at his kit. “The Jazz Answer” is a warm yet rich piece of writing, inspired by Bill Evans. “Not Knowing” has that lush piano trio sound that melts the heart and suggests to the listener that actually, yes, all is well with the world after all. The title track was penned by Kalaf for his new grandson and again allows the trio to shine. For the two remaining tracks; “See You Next Year” and “Moving On” the band leader performs with Rich Ruttenberg on piano and Domenic Genova on bass. The first of these two tracks is an engaging jazz waltz with a Bill Evans languorous style. The second; “Moving On” would sit nicely on any ECM “best of” album. The tune has a sense of peace and satisfaction and is the perfect end to a very nice album.
Jerry Kalaf’s “Welcome to Earth” may not set the world on fire, but then not all music has to. What it does have is a quiet intensity and lyrical warmth that allows the listener to enjoy its uncomplicated compositions, performed with an elegance and sincerity, be it as one of two trios, or a sextet.