“4 Stars!…striking, colorful music” — Downbeat Magazine
On this Postcards album, Bruce Ditmas: What If, Jazz drummer Bruce Ditmas has (as geniuses as diverse as Gil Evans, the Brecker Brothers, Paul Bley, Pat Metheny, & Barbara Streisand can attest) “live time“: you just can’t sit still when he plays the drums. His debut as a leader, this album features the acclaimed drummer alongside John Abercrombie (guitar), Paul Bley (piano/synth), Dominic Richards (bass), & Sam Rivers (saxophone), creating music that is both is forward-looking and respectful to every Jazz epoch.
“4 1/2 Stars!…A monster of a disc…challenging, wide-open but well thought-out music.” —– Buffalo News
Whether playing behind Judy Garland, alongside Jaco Pastorius, or orchestrating the music to the Patricia Burgess Opera The Dream of Four Directions, Bruce Ditmas creates both electrifying, propelling rhythms, as well as imaginative and cerebral compositions. On this exciting album from the Postcards label, Bruce Ditmas: What If, the Jazz drummer and his group of accomplished sidemen swing like mad throughout, and visit some extraordinarily compelling and vivid musical vistas along the way.
Drummer Bruce Ditmas used to wonder “What if?” What if he could bring together a stellar group of players — like guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Paul Bley, saxophonist Sam Rivers, and bassist Dominic Richards? What if he could make an album of aggressive improvisational music with no compromises that would perfectly represent his modern approach to music and drumming?
He found out when he assembled those very players at New York’s Electric Lady Studios to record What If, released on the Postcards label. “The whole idea behind What If was the potential for discovering the unknown,” Ditmas says. “I wanted to set up situations that would feature all of these musician’s talents. I just took it for granted that the music would happen because of the people I was bringing together, and I was not disappointed. These guys were fabulous and their improvisations were amazing.”
Paul Bley was Ditmas’s first-choice keyboardist for the album. “We did a record together in the ’70s with Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny, and that was so great,” Ditmas says. “So I wanted him for the unique harmonic base he would provide. And I had to have John Abercrombie because he’s the only guitar player who has the rhythmic concept I needed. As soon as my producer, Ralph Simon, suggested Sam Rivers, I knew he was the perfect horn player. And I’ve been working with Dominic Richards for a while now. He has a lot of roots and he’s a real good listener.”
Holding it all together is Ditmas, who incorporates a lot of drums, as opposed to cymbals, in his timekeeping. “I like to think of the entire drumset as a functional color,” Ditmas says. “I think there’s a little rock influence in there too, in terms of the in-your-face style of really playing the drums upfront.”
1. Island Seven
|Bruce Ditmas – drums
John Abercrombie – guitars
Paul Bley – piano & synthesizers
Dominic Richards – bass
Sam Rivers – tenor & soprano saxes
ABOUT BRUCE DITMAS
Ditmas has worked in a variety of settings during his 30-year career, which began at age 18 when he backed Judy Garland. He was a member of the Gil Evans Orchestra for several years, and appears on several Evans albums, and he has also worked and/or recorded with Lee Konitz, David Sanborn, the Brecker Brothers, Steve Kuhn, and Stan Getz. His commercial credits include work with Barbra Streisand, the Merv Griffin Show, and Broadway pit orchestras.
Bruce Ditmas (born December 12, 1946) is an American jazz drummer and percussionist. Ditmas was born in Atlantic City but grew up in Miami; his father was a trumpeter in Miami big bands. He studied with Tony Crisetello and then with Stan Kenton at Indiana University and Michigan State University in the early 1960s.
After a stint with Ira Sullivan (1962–64), he accompanied singers including Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Della Reese, Leslie Uggams, and Sheila Jordan between 1964 and 1970. He moved to New York City in 1966.
In the 1970s Ditmas played on Broadway Promises..Promises…then with Joe Newman (1971), Jazz Interactions Orchestra (1971), Gil Evans (1971–77), Enrico Rava (from 1971), Stardrive, Atmospheres, Future Shock (1972), New Wilderness Preservation Band (1972–73), Paul Bley, Lee Konitz, Jaco Pastorius Pat Metheny, Chet Baker (1974–75), and Stan Getz (1975).
Later in the 1970s he concentrated on solo performance, including experiments with drum machines. He returned to work with the Evans Orchestra from 1979 to 1985, and lived in Italy in 1986-87, where he played with Dino Saluzzi, Rava, Rita Marcotulli, and Pietro Tonolo. He played with his own trio D3 with Jack DeSalvo and Tony DeCicco from 1988. D3 released Spontaneous Combustion on the Tutu label.
In the 1990s he played with Pat Hall and Karl Berger among others. D3 reformed in 2008 and is currently performing as the D3 Standards Trio.In 1990, Ditmas orchestrated the music to an opera by Patricia Burgess, The Dream of Four Directions. He also composed prolifically for film and television; among his credits is the film Deathscape.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
4 ½ Stars.
Drummer Bruce Ditmas’ wish list comes to fruition on the 1995 “Postcards” release titled, What If. Among the noteworthy crop of re-releases from Arkadia Records who now own the Postcards catalogue is this mind boggling work featuring a who’s who of modern jazz stylists such as pianist Paul Bley, bassist Dominic Richards, saxophonist Sam Rivers and guitarist John Abercrombie. According to the liners, Ditmas handed Postcards something similar to a Christmas want-list as they proceeded to round up these consummate and highly influential jazz musicians.
On What If Ditmas slashes and burns while boasting a booming, resonant sound as he provides the thunderous intro for pianist Paul Bley on the opener, “Island Seven”. Here and throughout, Ditmas engages complex polyrhythms in effortless fashion as he provides the enormous pulse behind Abercrombie’s angular and somewhat ferocious attack, which rekindles memories of his now classic ECM release, “Timeless”.
The title track, “What If” is electrically charged and proceeds at a feverish pace as the great Sam Rivers’ sinewy and explosive tenor sax work along with the forceful rhythms and turbo charged interplay among the bandmates offers something which borders fusion and modern jazz. Paul Bley stretches out in elegant fashion on “Clever Conversations” while Ditmas and Richards employ a relentless rhythmic assault. Unadulterated intensity provided by Abercrombie’s signature and somewhat manic guitar stylizations along with the muscular rhythmic assault are prevalent factors on the barnburner titled, “Pulp”. On “Power Surge”, the heat continues while “Don’t Wake Up” is ethereal and dreamy thanks to Bley’s colorful and textural articulations on synthesizer along with his pensive or somewhat dirge-like acoustic piano work. A fitting finale to an unyielding and explosive affair!
Upon its original release, What If received critical praise and accolades and justifiably so as it becomes rather obvious from the onset that Ditmas was geared up for this date. What If offers a potpourri of modern/free-jazz, fusion and takes off into the stratosphere to some unknown destination, as the men only know one way, which is straight ahead with no looking back. — Glen Astarita – AllAboutJazz