Nathan Eklund Group: The Crooked Line (2007)
Joined by saxophonist Craig Yaremko, pianist Joe Elefante, bassist Brian Killeen and drummer Josh Dion, Eklund and company are typical of many young conservatory trained jazz musicians; technically proficient and highly accomplished, yet still finding their own voices on their respective instruments.
A solid soloist with a warm lyrical tone, Eklund demonstrates early promise with his creative re-interpretations of classic covers. While his originals traffic in swinging hard-bop, it's his hip re-interpretations of three choice covers that make the biggest impression.
Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are" is the most traditional cover on the album, albeit laced with inventive harmonic variations, full of lyric beauty and proof Eklund and company know their changes. Lee Morgan's hard bop classic "Totem Pole" may seem like a predictable cover choice for an outfit like this, but casting the tune as a straight-up tango full of dramatic verve is anything but expected.
Re-imagining Bjork's Teutonic epic "Isobel" as a funky soul-jazz number, Eklund brings a fresh perspective to her work. While covers of Bjork and Radiohead are nothing new for the younger jazz generation, re-envisioning a grandiose tune like "Isobel" as a gospel-inflected groove shows serious forethought and a welcome sense of playfulness.
A devotee of Thad Jones and Kenny Werner, Eklund's own writing swings with harmonic complexity and tuneful accessibility. Employing melodies of unusual bar length, metric modulation and dynamically varied arrangements, Eklund's writing offers subtle twists on classic formulas. From the delicate ballad "More Ways Than One" and the brisk waltz "Emancipated Thinking," to the Latin lilt of "Kydee" and the brisk post-bop of "Scatterbrain," his tunes sample from a deep well of classic jazz traditions.
A subtly innovative and highly enjoyable sophomore effort, The Crooked Line shows great future potential for Eklund and his group.
Track Listing: The Mayor; Emancipated Thinking; Isobel; Scatterbrained Prelude; Scatterbrained; More Ways Than One; All the Things You Are; Kydee; Totem Pole; The Crooked Line.
Personnel: Nathan Eklund: trumpet, flugelhorn; Craig Yaremko: saxophones; Joe Elefante: piano; Brain Killeen: bass; Josh Dion: drums.
Record Label: Jazz Excursion Records