Drummer Ferit Odman Releases 'Dameronia With Strings' on New Equinox Music CD [REVIEW]

By Mike Greenblatt m.greenblatt@classicalite.com | Dec 30, 2015 07:50 PM EST
Drummer Ferit Odman is in tribute to the late Tadd Dameron. (Photo : Photo courtesy of Ferit Odman)

Tadd Dameron [1917-1965] came out of Cleveland a piano-playing teenager and was soon writing and arranging in New York City for Count Basie. It's his "Hot House" that helped make Charlie Parker famous, and he also greatly helped and inspired Dizzy Gillespie. He co-led a 1949 band with Miles Davis in Paris. In 1956, he recorded "Mating Call" and gave an unknown sax player named John Coltrane his big break. Dameronia With Strings (Equinox Music & Entertainment) is the brainchild of drummer Ferit Odman, from Istanbul, Turkey. Besides legend-in-the-making Terell Stafford on trumpet, Dameronia With Strings has a gorgeously arranged string sextet by David O'Rourke augmenting drums/bass/trumpet/piano to add flavor, color and oomph to eight of Dameron's creations.

"Smooth As The Wind," a tune Tadd did in 1961 with Blue Mitchell, is the highlight but all seven other tracks swoon with tempestuous delight. Its syncopated bebop/sultry swing shares time with string section charts that cloud the coffee with recurring dreaminess. It's different. It is unique. Tadd's 1946 arrangement on his own "If You Could See Me Now" was one of Sarah Vaughan's very first recordings under her own name. Here, it's lovingly resurrected to the point where the originally rather austere style has been stretched out into an almost classical zone with harmonics and zesty kinetic movement. An overabundance of strings usually brings a saccharine element. String-drenched sides have ruined many a great singer's records; Ray Charles, Jackie Wilson and Dean Martin come to mind. To hear six strings compete for attention here, in a fresh, vital and totally new way is a delight however.

As song after song slides sensuously by, one is reminded of the abject genius of Tadd Dameron. One is then saddened by the stark reality that this sensitive soul, who never achieved mainstream popularity, had his run ended prematurely in 1958 when incarcerated for drug possession. After his 1961 release, he settled into a comfortable niche writing for TV and arranging for Milt Jackson, Sonny Stitt and Brook Benton. He died in 1965 from cancer. But, much like Billy Strayhorn, who toiled in obscurity when the world should have recognized his genius, Dameron is getting his props posthumously. Surely though, we will be hearing more from the supremely talented Ferit Odman while he's still with us.

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