Ferguson's drumming is group's heartbeat

Special to The Times

The many colors of Sherman Ferguson's drumming have been heard in settings as varied as the groups of Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter, Bud Shank and Shorty Rogers, to name only a few. Spend a few nights visiting local jazz rooms and there's a better-than-average chance that you'll hear Ferguson in action, enhancing whatever music he's playing with his well-crafted rhythms and his thoughtful musical sensibilities.

On Tuesday at Catalina Bar & Grill, Ferguson applied those skills to his own group, Sherman Ferguson's Jazz Union. The four-piece ensemble, which also included bassist Trevor Ware and saxophonists Louis Van Taylor and Carl Randall, romped through a collection of spirited, bop-tinged pieces, vigorously driven by Ferguson's propulsive drumming.

Two-saxophone front lines have had a long and illustrious jazz history, and the Jazz Union ensemble sound tapped into that resonance via Ferguson arrangements emphasizing the muscular sounds produced by the two instruments in tandem. The pieces ranged from bop classics to Ferguson originals and, somewhat surprisingly, a brawny take on Ornette Coleman's "Turnaround." Taylor's tenor saxophone soloing was particularly impressive on the last, and even more effective on the sole number in which he switched to alto saxophone, seeming more comfortable with the smaller instrument's timbre and flexibility.

But the heartbeat of the music was Ferguson's drumming. Using his drum kit like an infinitely variable set of tonal devices, he added constructive musical touches to everything he played. No wonder he's been an A-list, first-call player for so many years.

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