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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ellery Eskelin, with Andrea Parkins & Jim Black - One Great Night ... Live (Hat Hut, 2009) ****½

The unusual line-up of sax, piano/organ and drums also characterises the unusual nature of the music they bring. Although all pieces are composed by saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, he has left more than ample room to manoeuvre for Andrea Parkins and Jim Black to add their own typical ingredients that have become the hallmark of their individual styles : creativity, unexpected twists and turns, going against the grain, while keeping the trio's approach quite coherent, not only on this album but throughout the many year that they've played together. I must say that I don't know all their albums, but this one is certainly a great one, and may beg for a deep dive in their discography, including their first one, called "One Great Day", dating back to 1997, and to which this one's title clearly refers to.

From what I know of their music, it has become stronger, more single-voiced. Sure, Eskelin clearly takes the lead, now very sensitive, then using short bursts of whispers, or playing long melodic phrases, alternated with solos that are really out there. But it is the total sound of this band that is intriguing and fresh : Parkins is not an accompanying pianist, quite to the contrary, she adds sounds, colors, interjections, support, contradictions, alternating between her various keyboards, and adding a real dramatic touch to the proceedings, while Jim Black does basically the same, playing in his usual rock-influenced fashion, hard-hitting, but keeping quiet too, listening and adding touches, giving a crisp yet powerful tone. Eskelin's compositions are excellent, not always easy to grasp at first, not always easy to follow, but clearly structured and it's sometimes suprising to hear the trio fall into a powerful unison melody after some long weird excursion. The compositions are great, as I said, and he varies between dramatic pieces, joyful tunes, sad moments and total despair, and it becomes intense at times and more often than not all these conflicting feelings are present in the same track, as are the various sub-styles and not yet sub-styles of jazz, with "I Should Have Known" as a nice example of this. The fact that these three players know each other quite well, is testified by the last piece, "Half A Chance", when upon first hearing, I would have bet money on it that it was a Jim Black composition, all sweet and melodic, but then with a sharp edge and a rock-ish rhythm. As if it was composed with Black and Parkins in mind. Lots of variation, lots of ideas, and still coherent. A strong feat.

Watch a YouTube clip from their DVD

© stef


Anonymous said...

Hope you get around to my favorite Hatology disc in ages:Polwechsel & John Tilbury-"Field"