Inner Urge: Drummer Mark Sweetman pursues a spiritual quest. By Yonah Korngold His sound is raw and drenched with emotion. With this spirit, Mark Sweetman carries the torch passed to him from the days when John Coltrane redirected his life on a spiritual quest after quitting heroin cold turkey by locking himself in his room on N. 33rd Street with nothing but cigarettes and water. Since these days the number of jazz musicians that truly understand what it means to be a jazz musician is growing scarcer than mice in a cat pound. Refreshingly, Mark Sweetman, the Canadian-borndrummer, has yet to divert from the spiritually enriched sound, soul and life that he discovered inhis childhood. Born in Toronto, Sweetman recalls a vibrant jazz scene where he would spend night after night in the back of a jazz club called Bourbon St., sipping on ice water, soaking up the energy and melting away with the vibrant sound. There he witnessed tremendous acts like Bill Evans and Chet Baker who taught him what it meant to play with everything from the inside out. Perhaps his greatest influence came while witnessing guitarist Sonny Greenwich roar deep with a tone no other guitarist can duplicate. In Sweetman, there is a lot of Greenwich. It is apparent in his spir-itualmission and the joy and intensity that surround his music. Yet Greenwich was not the only power that awak-ened Sweetman's musical sense. There was also Sweetman's drum teacher whom he paired up with in Toronto when he was 18. Sweetman describes how his teacher was, "totally into Coltrane, Elvin, Miles, and Tony Williams." It is in these drum lessons that Sweetman was taught more than just drums but "life class" where lessons about jazz theory soon became "life lessons." In these pivotal moments Sweetman learned that the first rule of music was to never be afraid of producing one's own sound. Sweetman followed this jazz guru on the road to Philadelphia where he spent years building up the spiritual sound inside of him that finally unleashed itself in 1997 with his debut album, Inspire d. As the title emphasizes, the seven tracks on the album are products of years of built up musical stimulation. "The urgency to put out my own music was so great that I didn't have a choice," says Sweetman. "I had spirituality in there that needed to get out for years." With a line up that includes such talents as Ralph Bowen, Dan Klienman and Mike Boone, The Mark Sweetman Quartet is full of intensity representing a music that will take control of the mind and body as it continues to push deeper into more mystical depths. Ralph Bowen, "the man" as Sweetman refers to him, takes Coltrane's legacy into his own saxophone and gives the group it's sparking electricity. A fellow Canadian, the two had met in the Toronto days when Ralph Bowen played with the son of Sweetman's drum teacher. On a mission to record this vibrant sound, Sweetman went to go see Ralph at Ortlieb's Jazzhaus and recruited him in his musical quest. The deep natural sound of the group comes from Mike Boone who unselfishly plays the bass while Dan Kleinman floats around on the piano adding a sense of joy into the soulfully deep music. On the Quartet's second album, All Paths Lead To One, one can hear a more relaxed and joyfully settled musical experience. From the get go the album is incarnated with a mysterious Indian drone in which the drums and bass build off of which climaxes when Ralph Bowen explodes on the sax. "I've always loved the drone in Indian music and always wanted to play off of it," says Sweetman. "Some of my music comes from years of falling asleep listening to jazz albums. Some just came from walking around in Europe. When I was in Italy I heard bells ringing and than a car horn went by and with my rhythmical sense I put the two together. And then sometimes I don't know where it comes from nor do I ask."For these reasons The Mark Sweetman Quartet remains unique in a music business where things aren't always what they seem. Unusually quiet in the public scene, Sweetman remains an underground secret who is completely content with the life he leads and the music he has produced. "I think one can identify with it [the music] and when they do they identify very deeply." It is this rawness of sound that got the attention of Patti LaBelle. "The interesting thing was that he [LaBelle's manager] understood the thread of spirituality in which Patti LaBelle appeals to in her audience and recognized that they in turn would get in my music." This understanding led to the Sweetman Quartet opening for Patti LaBelle at The Westbury Music Fair. In this experience Sweetman recalled how Patti LaBelle's musicians all were enthusiastic and a bit jealous with the easy going and free attitude that the Quartet has adopted as their philosophy. In the upcoming months the quartet plans to rejoin LaBelle in Jamaica along with a return to the studio to record a Coltrane tribute album. "The thing about Coltrane and spirituality is something that pretty much has disappeared now except for a few of us who do our thing. "We are not going to copy Coltrane; we are men of this era who happen to love Coltrane." Like Coltrane, when recording, Sweetman believes that the band should play together in one room and not hidden behind layers of equipment behind stu-dio walls. In this sense there is no doubt that Sweetman will be able to capture Coltrane's intensity and also be able to give the music a personal element that will speak to the group's modern uniqueness.