Wayne Escoffery: Times Change (2001)
Times Change represents the debut album as leader for Wayne Escoffery, whom you may recognize as saxophonist with the Eric Reed Band. While attending the Hartt School, Escoffery studied with Jackie McLean, and the latter’s influence is apparent in his knowledge of jazz history, lean, angular harmonies and muscular tone. Not surprisingly, Escoffery lists Sonny Stitt as another favorite and Jimmy Heath, George Coleman, and Don Braden among his teachers. This is a talented youngster capable of long, flowing lines (check out “After You’ve Gone”), noteworthy creativity, and a broad range of expression. The album intersperses three original tunes among three standards and two lesser-known compositions.
“Come Back Lucky” is a medium-tempo original loosely based on changes from a blues by Los Angeles native Lucky Thompson, “Bo-Bi My Boy.” Next Escoffery has arranged a Sam Rivers tune, “Beatrice,” to cast a more modal shadow; the result is entrancing. The band changes tempo and mood nicely with the first of back-to-back standards, as the dependable Carl Allen drives the ensemble at a brisk clip. The second, the lovely Brandt/Haymes ballad entitled “That’s All,” provides the album’s lushest moments.
Both the aforementioned “Beatrice” and the next original, “Times Change,” experiment with different time signatures in the same tune, the former with periodic ¾ time bars (causing the melody to float); the latter, a bridge in 5/4 time.
“[Here] I’m experimenting with...a set of chord changes that work well with the use of pentatonics. Also, the bridge goes between two chords of the three tonic system. This gives [me] the choice to play on each chord individually, or play modally over both chords.”
OK. The result is a somewhat jagged but engrossing and tuneful piece of music; its sharp edges, corners and curves are more playful than dangerous.
“Dawn,” named after Escoffery’s sister, is a soprano adventure, complex and a little dissonant, but soulful and enjoyable. The album concludes with Jobim’s “Triste” (taken in 7/4 meter, featuring a dense, modal chorus and concluding with a Carl Allen solo) and Yusef Lateef’s “Water Pistol,” a light and carefree closer.
For those of you who hear nothing new under the sun from today’s neo-boppers, give a listen to Wayne Escoffery. I think you’ll like what you hear.
Track Listing: Come Back Lucky; Beatrice; After You
Personnel: Wayne Escoffery (tenor and soprano sax), Aaron Goldberg (piano), Joel Forbes (bass), and Carl Allen (drums)