Houston Music

Bubbha Thomas

Houston drummer Bubbha Thomas lays down such a deep groove that you could find it in a hurricane. The consummate power stickman, Thomas cracks the snare with such intensity that it articulates each beat with a palpable force. Yet his cymbal work is almost airy.

There are two cuts on Thomas' new CD, It's All About Style, that aptly illustrate what's so interesting about him. A terribly short track, Cliff Friend and Franklin's "When My Dreamboat Comes Home," recalls those old '50s jazz-bar ensembles with organ, sax and rhythm section. Thomas opens with a loping rhythm, which provides ample space for Keith Vivens to stroll with his walking bass line. But it is Thomas's cymbal work that makes this track swing so well. Similarly, the drummer's rhythmic density on Doug Harris's "Future Returns" propels Kelly Dean's tenor and Horace A. Young's alto sax solos. There is such a sense of cohesion and reinforcement on this track that it leaps out of the speakers.

The down side is that Thomas jumps around from style to style. Maybe this eclecticism will attract a non-jazz audience. There's something to be said for this approach since Thomas can vary rhythm, texture and color in virtually everything he touches. The variations on the more straight-ahead jazz tracks, in particular, are wonderful to behold. One wonders if Thomas shouldn't have named his album, It's All about Styles.

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Aaron Howard