The drumming of Warren “Trae” Crudup III sounds like fresh firecrackers, but it ultimately feels ceremonial, and here’s why. He grew up keeping time in church, then in his high school marching band, then in a teenage go-go troupe called Pitch Black and, more recently, alongside the poet Thomas Sayers Ellis, saxophonists James Brandon Lewis and Brian Settles, among other citizens of jazzland.
But Crudup says he’s still searching for his own place in the universe. “If anything, I’m trying to know who I am through the drums,” he says. “I’m trying to find a wave or a frequency that already exists.”
Ask him about neighboring frequencies and he’ll cite the polyrhythmic gusto of Elvin Jones, the cardiac cadences of Milford Graves and the proud wallop of Paul “Buggy” Edwards, the drummer for go-go idols Backyard Band. But Crudup says that whenever he’s improvising on the bandstand, his heroes leave him alone and his brain goes blank. “I need to make myself a clean vessel for information to come through,” he says. “I have to come from a place of selflessness to allow myself to present that information as pure as possible.”
Crudup is in the middle of a month-long residency at Sotto, and during the opening night jam session a couple of weeks back, there was no denying that the “pure information” he was channeling still sounded funky and low-down. Even his most lucid grooves were crammed with extra gestures — nasty little booms and cracks that seemed to be announcing a more beautiful cosmic truth. If you don’t get dirty, you can’t get clean.
Show: June 12, 19 and 26 at 8 p.m. at Sotto, 1610 14th St. NW. Free.