Will Calhoun – Life in this World (2013)

Best known as the drummer in the barrier-breaking metal band Living Colour, Will Calhoun has quietly put together an impressive resume in jazz — notably performing with Wayne Shorter on the Grammy-winning effort High Life, while also appearing along side Jaco Pastorious, Pharoah Sanders, Jack DeJohnette, Marcus Miller and Herb Alpert, among others.

Life in This World, due May 14, 2013 via Motema, underscores the passion Calhoun — whose father passed along a love of jazz through a stack of old bebop LPs — brings to this second career.

Paired with a stellar group of performers including Wallace Roney, Donald Harrison, Charnett Moffett and Ron Carter, Calhoun offers four hard-hitting originals to go with covers from notables like John Coltrane (“Naima”), Cole Porter (the fizzy “Love for Sale”), Thelonious Monk (“Evidence,” which finds Calhoun exploring all the angles) and Wayne Shorter (“Etcetera”), to go with the fleet “Spectrum,” which was so memorably recorded by Tony Williams. Montema labelmate Marc Cary, who adds piano to several cuts, composed “He Who Hops,” while bassist Charnett Moffett wrote the smoothly intriguing opener “Brother Will.”

For “Naima,” Calhoun explores rhythms on cajon and water drum, underscoring the lengthy period of study he’s undertaken since the 1990s on the origins of his instrument — as does “Afrique Kan’e,” a complex and fascinating tune Calhoun co-wrote with Malian pianist Cheick Tidiane Seck that features a decidedly Miles Davis-esque turn by Roney. Carter’s work on “Etcetera” is, as expected, a revelation of imagination, cleverly voiced but always rhythmically aware.

Calhoun reunites with Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish for “Abu Bakr II,” a fever-dream excursion into funky electronics — with Roney providing these long cerulean lines over an undulating current of sounds. Life in This World then adds in a little New Orleans spice, first with an R&B-soaked turn by saxophonist Donald Harrison “Dorita” and then with the ballad “Love’s Parody,” a tune Calhoun originally did with Dr. John that finds him offering a rare vocal.


Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.