The New Cool: Mark Guiliana

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Tuesday May 30, 2017

From knkx

The New Cool: Mark Guiliana, Drummer Up Front
By: Abe Beeson

When a friend recently told me that drummer Mark Guiliana is not just swinging through the Northwest with saxman Donny McCaslin’s group next month, he’s also bringing his own band to town this fall, it was juicy news indeed.

Guiliana is one of the most beloved drummers in modern jazz, or as the New York Times wrote, he’s “a drummer around whom a cult of admiration has formed.”

His first album with his early band Heernt was released barely a decade ago, and today Guiliana seems to be everywhere. He was seen on the Grammy Awards stage with McCaslin’s group accepting awards for their work on David Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar” (the band’s new album, “Beyond Now,” is a tribute to the pop star), and his tours with soul singer Meshell Ndegeocello, rapper Matisyahu, jazz singer Gretchen Parlato (his wife), guitarist Lionel Loueke and others have taken him around the world.

My first exposure to the drummer was the duet project Mehliana with pianist Brad Mehldau featured on mostly electric keyboards on their amazing 2014 album “Taming the Dragon.” The collection of beats propelling Mehldau’s wash of electronics was a perfect blend of organic sounds and electronic precision, Guiliana’s technical skills allow him to play with the exacting consistency of a drum machine while allowing for the freedom of improvisations from groovy to free.

In the 21st century, when electronic rhythms dominate popular music, this is a skill set that many modern jazz drummers are desperately trying to achieve.

Mark Guiliana points to a diverse collection of musical heroes, from jazz greats Elvin Jones and Art Blakey to electronic and hip hop giants J Dilla and Aphex Twin. He enjoys variety of musical styles and settings, a repeated phrase in several interviews with Guiliana is “challenging musical situation,” which has led to his popularity among fellow players. He travels with just his cymbals, he says, preferring to take on the challenge of playing whichever drums each strange club on the road has to offer.

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