Jazz and Folk: Drummer Cosker marches to his own beat as he prepares to unveil new record

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DRUMMER Alyn Cosker is discussing players who have influenced him, listing luminaries such as Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Steve Gadd and the late Jeff Porcaro, when he pauses: "Just all these guys who play with real heart in any music situation they're involved in."

He could be summing up himself, really. At 29, Cosker has laid down impeccable grooves in a bewildering multitude of genres, playing with everyone from international jazz names such as Joe Locke and Lee Konitz to folk-rockers Wolfstone and Isobel Campbell of Belle and Sebastian. It's as a jazzman, however, that he has really beat out a reputation, which he is about to consolidate with the release of his first album under his own name, Lyn's Une (Linn Records), which he launches at a concert at The Lot in Edinburgh on 22 May, in the company of his standard trio with bassist Ross Hamilton and guitarist David Dunsmuir, plus Tommy Smith guesting on sax.

Lyn's Une (a misprint of "Alyn's Tune", which stuck) sees him in the company of regular and occasional associates (several from the ranks of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, for whom he has drummed these past few years), including trio mates Hamilton and Dunsmuir as well as Smith on tenor saxophones and Paul Towndrow on soprano and alto saxes, Ryan Quigley on trumpet and Jason Rebello on piano. It's a muscular and often funky affair, with fiery guitar lines from Dunsmuir and beefy brass riffing, all of it incisively underpinned by Cosker's stick work. There's also a surprisingly countryish song, When Autumn Comes, from SNJO guest vocalist Maureen McMullan.

"The basic idea was to have the trio as the core and augment it in various ways," says Cosker, who grew up in Ayr. "I was delighted that Tommy agreed to do it, then Jason came up to do a day as well. Just to have that mix of musicians was phenomenal," he laughs.

Since he graduated with a BA (Hons) degree from Strathclyde University's applied music course, he has kept some high-profile company, including Jim Mullen, Carol Kidd, Courtney Pine, Keith Tippet and the late Bheki Mseleku (to whom he dedicates a track on the album). Last Edinburgh International Jazz Festival he was called in at alarmingly short notice to replace the Italian drummer Paolo Vinaccia for a gig with Tommy Smith and the renowned Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen.

The Smith-Andersen-Vinaccio configuration had already made a formidable reputation for itself, but Cosker's performance was much talked about; this paper's reviewer, Kenny Mathieson, remarking that if the festival "had an award for grace under pressure, then it would surely have to go to Alyn Cosker".

Ask about general influences, and he'll list everything from Coltrane to Peter Gabriel. "I've been really influenced by Tommy (Smith]'s writing, by practically everyone I work with. My compositions might challenge myself and the guys in the trio, but ultimately the main goal is to convey a heartfelt musical message. It can become a bit soulless if you go down the avenue of just thinking musical challenges."

One recent challenge, however, has seen Cosker at the heart of the SNJO's tribute to Buddy Rich. "It's been a great experience," says Cosker of donning the mantle of the famously explosive Rich. "I felt I had to approach it la Buddy and not use any music. I learned the arrangements from CDs and stuff and really tried to get into the character of Buddy's playing."

Not totally into character, he hastens to add: "I didn't start firing people on stage like Buddy... they would have all just shouted back at me."

&#149 The Alyn Cosker Trio with Tommy Smith plays The Lot, Edinburgh, on 22 May.