Sean Noonan: Drumavox

In brief:
"It somehow needs a video or a concert package to bring it fully to life, but track by track, it’s insanely good"

Noonan prefers to call himself a “rhythmic storyteller” rather than drummer or percussionist, and he has frequently in the past narrated the back-stories of compositions while playing. Singing drummers may conjure up images of the Dave Clark Five (though only in the very old), but there’s a pretty honourable tradition that stretches all the way from Levon Helm to Han Bennink and Ken Hyder. However, this is probably the first time that a drummer/vocalist has gone out with an operatic vocal quartet … from Sardinia.

Noonan had been working on the rock opera Zappanation when he encountered tenor Matteo Siddi, a fearless and often subversive experimenter who has won fame for his impressions of everyone from Michael Jackson to Jesus. Joined by three others who share his hyper-eclectic approach, Siddi is the de facto lead in the quartet that accompanies Noonan here in some wildly thrashy reinterpretations of material from his catalogue, which draws on umpteen traditions and styles.


The Zappa connection holds in that the singing is often wild falsetto, notably on the opening As The World Spins or a faux-artless folksy yell on Silkie From The Sea, which seems to have a Scots/Irish provenance, which is presumably his family background. The most remarkable cut, though, is Don Knott’s, which fugues, almost literally, on the few phonetic possibilities of the title, while Noonan maintains a tight, supertight cymbal riff underneath.

Over the span, this is quite tiring music as a purely aural experience. It somehow needs a video or a concert package to bring it fully to life, but track by track, it’s insanely good and a fascinating exploration of the relationship between music and storytelling, a nexus that is far more thoroughly broken and lost than the connection between music and dance, which just about clings on. Noonan’s an important figure, and if the Zappa reference puts anyone off – as it inevitably will – Noonan’s not an ironist or a satirist. He’s working in a very ancient tradition and bringing it back to life.

Buy Sean Noonan: Drumavox at

As The World Spins; He Skarbnik He; Don Knott’s; Silkie From The Sea; Pussy Cat’s Gone Wild; Where Could I Go; Krasnoludki’s On My Mind; Bia (58.40)
Noonan (d, v); Alice Madeddu (ss); Eva Pagella (m-z); Matteo Siddi (ts); Manuel Cossu (b).
Noonansmusic 8

Previous article
Next article

Latest audio reviews


More from this author


Jazz Journal articles by month


Martin Archer / Charlotte Keeffe / Martin Pyne: Hi Res Heart

In the press release for this one Martin Archer makes it known that he regards the music as a kind of approximation of the...

Still Clinging To The Wreckage 04/22

Art Blakey grew up in Pittsburgh, one of the toughest cities, during one of the hardest times endured in America. During his childhood and...

Billy Jenkins: poking a stick

'Working all my life as a musician and bandleader most of which (together with all 20th-century popular musical styles) has been influenced by the...

The Jazz Standards – A Guide To The Repertoire

The first edition of The Jazz Standards (2012) received unanimous praise from such critics and performers as Will Friedwald, Gerald Early, Dave Brubeck and...

City Of A Million Dreams

The potent collision of African and European style in New Orleans led to jazz and informs the music of the city's famous funeral processions

JJ 02/82: Chick Corea – Lionel Hampton: Live At Midem

These bright festival offerings pair two leaders born more than a generation apart but in harmony artistically. Hampton and Corea blend surprisingly well and...
"It somehow needs a video or a concert package to bring it fully to life, but track by track, it’s insanely good"Sean Noonan: Drumavox