Anyone is Better Than Here
Release date: June 16, 2023
Drummer and composer Jeremy Dutton presents his eagerly-awaited recording debut, Anyone is Better Than Here. Celebrated for his stellar work as a sideman with such luminaries as Vijay Iyer and Gerald Clayton as well as his innovative contributions to the work of his peers on Joel Ross’ and James Francies’ critically-acclaimed Blue Note releases – Jeremy Dutton is the pulse of a new generation of young lions within the jazz idiom. Produced by Dutton alongside celebrated drummer and composer Kendrick Scott, Anyone is Better Than Here is a coming-of-age story that reflects Dutton’s commitment to self-acceptance as a means of growth, and as a result, the album’s tracks serve as a vulnerable and vital document of the artist’s compositional prowess and singular style. Alongside Dutton, this comprehensive piece features some of the most exciting names in jazz today, including vibraphonist Joel Ross, saxophonist Ben Wendel, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, pianist James Francies, guitarist Mike Moreno and bassists Matt Brewer and Daryl Johns.
Often an artist’s debut album serves to introduce audiences to the person behind the instrument, offering a narrative that sheds light on the composer’s background and ideologies – Anyone is Better Than Here makes no exception – tracks like “The Mother” shed light on the importance of Dutton’s mother and family-life on his musical upbringing, and Dutton’s ideologies are a major theme of this release, the notion of shedding idealism for acceptance and other Daoist philosophies are threaded throughout the album’s tracks. Rarely does a debut album wholly encapsulate the musical aesthetic and energy of an entire musical scene that the artist has been an instrumental figure within. This places Anyone is Better Than Here in its own league, and is particularly evidenced on tracks like “Waves”, a piece based on a quote from acclaimed vibraphonist Stefon Harris on Dutton’s hallmark compositional and performance style: “You guys have this way of playing where its like a wave … you have to get on the wave or you get swept under it.” In other words, what’s presented here is not just a story, it’s a sound.
Dutton remarks “I decided to record this album after working on these songs for several years and realizing that a story runs through them. The idea of recording was interrupted by the lockdown, which inspired me to write even more compositions that make up this piece. This project reflects my dedication to being honest, vulnerable and being who I am – all things that I have taken from my time living in New York City and particularly the past several years in lockdown. The title of the album is trying to express the notion that who we are is inescapable, the desire to change who you are is futile, but the ability to change your perspective is imperative.”
Anyone is Better Than Here features several configurations of personnel, alternating bassists Daryl Johns and Matt Brewer as well as trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire with saxophonist Ben Wendel. “Waves” is a pared-down quartet composition prominently featuring Akinmusire. The track sets the tone for the synergy and degree of dynamics, nuance and interplay that are presented throughout the album. True to Stefon Harris’ aforementioned assessment, the quartet moves as four limbs of the same body, gliding nimbly over waves of sound with intent, spirit, and ease.
“Shifts” features Ben Wendel on saxophone, as well as Joel Ross on vibraphone and Mike Moreno on guitar. Dutton remarks that “Shifts” is “another tune that is designed to reflect a certain way that we play – the ability to shift perspectives quickly. Particularly, it demonstrates the way that I approach time after years of playing – if you can understand the distance between point A and point B, you have freedom to turn that distance into anything you want as long as you understand the destination or the landing point.” The piece offers some stunning melodic invention from Wendel, ethereal soundscapes from Ross, and a redefinition of what it truly means to be innovative on the drum kit while still remaining deeply ‘in-the-pocket’. The notion of freedom vs. constraint that factors in such a role in Dutton’s approach to his artistry is just one of many dualities that Dutton accepts in his path towards growth as an artist and human. “Nothing in nature exists without contradiction, maybe the contradictions within us contribute to our beauty and must be accepted,” the artist espouses.
“Truman (reborn)”, Dutton notes, “is my favorite track on the album. The piece is about the strength that is required to choose an uncertain path” He adds, “Taking a risk for the uncertain is what makes life worth living.” The title for the piece recalls back to the 1998 Jim Carrey dystopian drama-comedy “The Truman Show”, in which Carrey’s character slowly realizes that he is living within a fabricated existence and that he must escape to find something real even though that path is unknown to him. Wendel delivers a particularly emotive solo on this composition.
“Drawing on inspiration from a piece of Daoist writing with the same title, “The Mother” encapsulates the idea of the mother as the matriarch of the universe and of all things – in my universe, my mother has always been a provider, she has made everything possible for me with her support and guidance. This song embraces the notion of the feminine holding the power, and expresses the full range of what motherhood means, from the bearer of a child – to the mother of the universe,” Dutton indicates. Ross’ full command of the vibraphone is on full display in this expressive piece, with a deeply vibrant and soulful solo. The superb ensemble glides from section to section as one unit, with Dutton at the helm from behind the drum-kit.
"Not too polished, not too rugged, these elliptical, winding tunes don’t seem open-ended but have set aside space for improvisation. Dutton demands attention." Read the full review here.
"Dutton draws on Whittaker’s example by supplying some sublime brushwork on two ballads from Anyone Is Better Than Here: “Mirrors” and “Dreams,” the latter an atmospheric showcase for Akinmusire." Read spotlight feature here.
DEE DEE McNEIL
"Jeremy Dutton is prophesied to be the pulse of a new generation of jazz drummers by his publicist. He has composed all the music on this, his debut album, and he explains the unusual title, (Anyone is Better Than Here)..." To check out the full article click here.
"That searching quality runs throughout “Anyone But Here,” right down to its title, which conveys a disorientation regarding identity and place." To check out the full article click here.