After moving to New York to further his education E.J. quickly graduated into New York’s gigging jazz scene, playing early on with Russell Malone and Ravi Coltrane. Both artists proved to be big brother types for E.J., gently guiding him as he established his voice. “Russell really stressed the point that as a drummer, you’re supposed to make the music feel good,” he says. “I always try to remember what he instilled in me.” Ravi Coltrane lent a similar kind of open-ended guidance, telling E.J. to simply “find something” in the music. Just what that would be was up to him.
Variety—of influence and interest—might be the key word for E.J. in his creative approach. He studied both classical and Latin percussion, working early on with the great Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa. “Growing up, we listened to all kinds of music in the house,” he says. “Miles, Stevie; just good music.” He’s applied his wide-ranging tastes to the artists he plays with today: funk and fusion with pianist Manuel Valera’s Groove Square; Latin jazz with tenor player David Sanchez; soul and R&B with harpist Brandee Younger; straight-ahead with alto player Sharel Cassity.
Strickland has built a successful career as a composer, bandleader, educator, and sideman. He’s toured, performed, and recorded with some of the greatest names in contemporary music: Cassandra Wilson, Terence Blanchard, Lizz Wright, Wynton Marsalis, George Colligan, David Gilmore, Vincent Herring, and Nnenna Freelon, to name a few. As a leader, he’s released two albums: 2009’s “In This Day” featuring his twin brother, Marcus Strickland, Jaleel Shaw, Luis Perdomo, and Hans Glawischnig in a blend of musical settings. His most recent release, “The Undying Spirit” positively glows… its success comes largely from the leader’s ability to inspire the best in his fellow musicians and demonstrate that a drummer-led jazz record gives listeners a unique opportunity to get their groove on.”
He reminds us: “You’re not going to hear a traditional jazz drummer. You’re going to hear someone who’s drawing from many different styles, many different approaches. That’s what my true voice is. And I always try to remember that music is fun!.”
Joining E.J. on his tour will be, Jure Pukl – tenor & soprano sax, Godwin Louis alto sax, Taber Gable piano and Josh Ginsburg contrabas.
Tour Dates are:
04 Apr – Le Periscope | Lyon, France
05 Apr- La Petite Halle | Paris, France
06 Apr – Paradox | Tilburg, Netherlands
07 Apr – Hnita Jazz Club | Heist-op-den-Berg, Belgium
08 Apr – La Meson | Marseille, France
13 Apr – Aquanet Jazz Festival | Poznan, Poland
14 Apr – Jazz Club Tonne | Dresden, Germany
15 Apr – L’Archiduc | Brussels, Belgium
16 Apr – Masterclass | Ghent, Belgium
17 Apr – Blue Note Milano | Milano, Italy
20 Apr – Lublin Jazz | Lublin, Poland
23 Apr – Zig Zag | Berlin, Germany
Editors Note: Keep an eye out for Andrew Read’s interview with E.J. Strickland to be published on this platform later this week.