Daniel Susnjar: Su Su Nje

Despite the curious sounding titles—a mixture of Spanish and English—obviously in an attempt to try conjure up images of the protagonist and drummer Danny Susnjar’s fascination with Perú, this is an extremely well-produced recording full of musical trickery born of impetuous compositions that hark to the roots of Afro-Peruvian music, impossibly beautiful drumming and a performance by the core ensemble and the stellar guests that makes this a truly memorable debut. Imposing as the contributions of Gabriel Alegría’s Quintet may be, it is to his credit that the drummer is never overawed by the growling chants of Freddy Lobatón, or the wild yearning of Mr. Alegría and the sensuous vocalising of Laura Andrea Leguía. Nor is Mr. Susnjar intimidated in any way by the complex rhythms of Afro-Peruvian music—for instance of the 12/8 shuffle of the Festejo, the compound 3/4 – 6/8 dance rhythms of the Cueca, or the rustic charm of the Landó. On the contrary, Mr. Susnjar appears to make these riveting tempi the centrepiece of his music, which mixes a slew of Latin metaphors with the inviolable idiom of jazz.

Daniel Susnjar is a gifted drummer. He is deeply entrenched in his instrument so much so that it has become an extension of his arms and legs. Polyrhythms come easily to him as his whips left hand and right around his drums as if he is conjuring up a mysterious brew. He constantly shifts emphasis from snare drum to the tom-toms and from hi-hat to ride cymbal, all the time dropping depth bombs with his bass drum. Because he uses a myriad of permutations and combinations with algebraic extensions he is able to have an almost infinite variety of sounds that come out of his drums. This also makes him a wonderful colourist as the myriad combinations of signatures and patterns that he brings in the rhythm of phrases and harmony of his playing produces a palette of multiple shades with which he can daub a piece at any given time. This performance on this record has to be one of the most remarkable ones by a non-Peruvian in a long time. It is this that enamours the musicians who play with him who seem likely to follow him to Lethe should he so desire them to do so.

The centre-piece of the entire record is “Toro Mata/Taita Guaranguito,” a monumental Festejo that the drummer premiered with the Frost School of Music in Florida with the great percussionist and conguero Sammy Figueroa. The music is special here because of the presence of the Gabriel Alegría Quintet and more especially because of the mystical figure of Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón. The horns of Troy Roberts and Chad Bernstein add subtle tones and bronzed timbre to the piece. Another fine tune is “Duke del Panalivio” an oblique reference to the legendary Duke Ellington and the contributions that bandleader made towards the acceptance of Latin elements into jazz, especially with the association with Juan Tizol. The rest of the music is just as exciting and if this is any indication then the sophomore album with really be something to look forward to.

Track list – Enciendete Candela; Land O Sus; One Four Five; Toro Mata/Taita Guaranguito; Superhero; Duke del Panalivio; Fearless Feel; Forte Pulse Torte.

Personnel – Daniel Susnjar: drums and percussion; Alex Pope Norris: trumpet and flugelhorn; Troy Roberts: tenor saxophone; Chad Bernstein: trombone and conch shells; Yuri Juárez: acoustic guitar; Paul Bollenback: electric guitar; Sam Anning: acoustic bass; Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón: cajón; Gabriel Alegría: trumpet; Laura Andrea Leguía: soprano and tenor saxophones; Danny Susnjar: electric guitar.

Released – 2014
Label – Independent
Runtime – 43:17

Raul Da Gama
Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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