Publication: The New York Times
Author: Ben Ratliff
One recent surprise in New York’s jazz life was Justin Faulkner, positioned high over his drums and playing them with an almost obsessive sense of narrative evolution, at Jazz Standard last month. Mr. Faulkner, 18, replaced Jeff (Tain) Watts in Branford Marsalis’s quartet three months ago. Even before the job started, Mr. Faulkner loved Mr. Watts’s playing; since March he has had to become more familiar with the older drummer’s polyrhythmic language to understand its function within the band. The two have still not met.
“My approach isn’t cymbals-and-drums,” he explained on Monday by telephone from Philadelphia, soon after his high school graduation rehearsal. He warmed into an intense monologue about his style. “It’s just music. Servicing the song, having the song rise to a certain point. It’s like parabolas: up, down, up, down. You get to a peak of excitement, and then you come down. And you have to make the big peak become one solid thing with the small peaks.”
What are the preconditions to modern jazz drumming? “No. 1,” Mr. Faulkner said, “you have to know the vocabulary, and No. 2, you have to understand that you’re making music. So what you’re feeling and hearing should go from within to the drums. If you’re not feeling what you’re playing, then you’re just meandering.”
Like Mr. Sorey, he sees Fournier’s drumming with Ahmad Jamal as a model. “In ‘Ahmad’s Blues’ he’s just swinging his behind off, but the next chorus he changes it, adding some little piece to make the music build,” Mr. Faulkner said. “It’s all about that. If the music doesn’t build, what’s it going to do?”