BEST JAZZ ARTIST - 2006
Phil Hey is not the first guy you notice onstage. First of all, he's a drummer, and he doesn't bash like the late Buddy Rich, or indulge in marathon solos, or play that much arty "free jazz." But it's no coincidence that when Phil Hey is the one keeping time, a wealth of rhythmic possibilities and creative nooks and crannies seem to emerge. Mentored by Ornette Coleman's favorite drummer, Ed Blackwell, Hey has parsed out Blackwell's knack for sonic levitation, for keeping an ensemble fluid with inventively fidgety combinations and snare beats that are almost metronomic but dip and buck ever so slightly, like the sea legs of an old skipper comfortable with constant movement. Hey has been the Twin Cities' best drummer for nearly two decades. He steps up to Best Jazz Artist on the basis of last fall's superb Subduction, the debut recording of the hornless Phil Hey Quartet. True to form, Hey ferrets out relatively obscure nuggets from Ornette and John Coltrane, pays homage to Blackwell on a pair of tracks, and sets up his three sidemen—vibes, piano, bass—with gracious aplomb.