Taylor Eigsti: Let It Come To You (2008)
It is always a joy, not to mention quite reassuring, for any serious acoustic jazz cognoscente to happen upon a young interpreter of the music that not only masters its tradition, but significantly develops his own voice and sound.
Already a veteran at only 23, Taylor Eigsti strongly contests a high-ranking position amidst the ever growing list of working (read: marketed) prodigies. In the pianist/composer's case though, the towering flattery and sizeable publicity such precocious talents usually garner, comes augmented of an assured know-how and artistic confidence that is normally found in older career artists.
Let It Come To You, his second effort for Concord, already counts as his sixth release as a leader since being initiated to the profession at age eight. Benefiting from considerable airplay and the support of former KJAZ radio personalities, Eigsti simply leaves no one indifferent. Sympathetic kinship and musical camaraderie have also coalesced through collaborations with former fellow prodigies Christian McBride and Joshua Redman (who guests on a few tracks here), as well as alongside stalwart artists including Al Jarreau, Dave Brubeck and Marian McPartland.
Drummer Eric Harland, bassist Reuben Rogers, guitarist Julian Lage and Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda assist Eigsti in presenting a solid, hour-long set of daring, virtuosic instrumental and improvisational performances that is not without elegance, if nonetheless outweighed by the group's robustly energetic musical demeanor.
The mix of tightly-knit original compositions, contemporary covers (not only from the jazz field, but from other, more popular music genres like The Eels' "Not Ready Yet" and Peggy Lee's "Fever"), and arrangements of standards old and newalthough as inventively assembled and as solidly delivered as all performances aresomewhat lacks focus from an overall programming standpoint.
In that sense, "Fallback Plan Suite," a tripartite original composition with a certain preoccupation for formal, orchestral-tiered organization of its larger sections and a layered-type counterpoint between instruments, is a drastically different experience than the music heard penultimately. Its more textural complexion, rather than the acoustic, improvisation-friendly material heard before it, really belong to another, separate project. That said, Eigsti and his group shine in both approaches, which provides its leader many diverse choices and options. It will be interesting to see what route he will take next.
Bound to success given his drive, skill and surrounding team, Eigsti shall certainly take the lead in acoustic jazz piano's ongoing rejuvenation. With plenty of time and recording occasions ahead of him, this young man will only get better as time passes. Be prepared to be blown away.
Track Listing: I Love You; Timeline; Not Ready Yet; Caravan; Portrait In Black & White; Deluge; Fever; Let It Come To You; Fall Back Suite: Free Will; Fall Back Suite: Lost Yet; Fall Back Suite: Steps.
Personnel: Taylor Eigsti: piano; Julian Lage: guitar; Eric Harland: drums; Reuben Rogers: bass; Joshua Redman: tenor sax; Edmar Castaneda: Colombian harp; Dayna Stephens: tenor sax (9-11); Ben Wendel: tenorsax (8-10); Evan Francis: flutes (8-10).