Ken Micallef, Modern Drummer

The debut recording from the top Up & Coming drummer in this year’s Readers Poll isn’t your typical young-gun-goes-for-the-jugular release.

Jonathan Barber’s feel is light and propulsive. You can hear it right from the start of “Statement of Vision,” the opening track of Vision Ahead, his debut as a leader. Barber’s burning stick flurries and glittering full-set deliveries evoke the feeling of being in the driver’s seat of a Formula One racer. The album is put together in suite-like fashion, which gives the music breadth, shape, and reach. Performed by Barber’s well-oiled and intimate group, the cuts glide from the funky title track and contemplative mid section (“Doubt,” “The Covenant,” “Think on These Things”) to the sun-streaked flotation device of “Airport” and the forward-moving, Michael Brecker-like swing of “Crown.” Later Barber solos on the kinetically swinging “Mr. JB” and lays down a fat funk groove on “Time Will Tell.” Finally, “Believing in the Reunion” rotates from a brief introductory solo to a spacious, melodic statement, with Barber serving time-stretching figures and combustible sticking throughout.

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