John Escreet: Don't Fight the Inevitable (2010)
Since moving to New York in 2006, pianist John Escreet has positioned himself as one of the scene's most significant up-and-comers. In addition to performances with artists including Chris Potter and Seamus Blake, he's a member The Story, which released its self-titled debut independently in 2009. Escreet also gigs with David Binney, appearing on Aliso (Criss Cross, 2010) and In the Paint (Posi-Tone, 2009), the altoist's co-led date with Alan Ferber. In return, Binney is a member of The John Escreet Project, whose 2008 Posi-Tone release, Consequences, heralded not just an important new pianist, but a significant composer as well.
Recorded after a European tour, Don't Fight the Inevitable finds Escreet and his groupthe only change being drummer Nasheet Waits replacing Tyshawn Soreyprofoundly in synch with Escreet's writing, which makes all of the disc's eight tunes (two co-written by altoist/co-producer Binney), barring a knotty rework of Muhal Richard Abrams' lesser-known "Charlie in the Parker." A significant rework of the AACM-cofounder's chart from 1-OQA+19 (Black Saint, 1978), Escreet uses bebop co-founder Charlie Parker's spoken word in its delicately ethereal middle section, where the prescient "Most likely, in another 25 or maybe 50 years, some youngster will come along and take the style and really do something with it," leads not just to a reiteration of the song's head, but to Escreet's even more idiosyncratic "Trouble and Activity," where it's clear (as it is throughout the set) that it's artists like Escreet to whom Parker was referring.
The tradition is deeply rooted here, though certainly far distanced from the mainstream as Escreet combines particularly challenging charts with generous egalitarian free play. Don't Fight the Inevitable is a demanding listen, but one that rewards focused attention. Escreet's music occupies a dark space, with Binney and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire playing, more often than not, tight unison lines over a tumultuous rhythm section of Waits and bassist Matt Brewer that moves forward in visceral waves. His writing creates an undeniable context, but one which allows for some of Binney's freest playing ever, especially on the eleven-minute title track, where his wails of reckless abandon are met by Escreet's blocky, Cecil Taylor-esque expressionism.
The saxophonist also adds some spare electronics to the mix. An irregular-metered pulse drives the serpentine melody of "Civilization on Trial," ultimately turning even more rhythmically charged, filled with sharp horn bursts and dramatic shifts in feel. Unfettered solos from Binney and Escreetwhose consequential lines are permeated with chordal tremolos which burst into brief moments of pure liberationlead to a final section sampled, processed and fed back by Binney as a gradually diminishing fade-out.
Despite its unmistakably cerebral nature, there's no shortage of passion running through this hour-long set. Intrinsic virtuosity abounds, but it's more about the collective, as the quintet moves seamlessly from stark passages of great import to potent landscapes of angular extremes. Capitalizing even further on his group's chemistry and capacity for both detailed arrangement and in-the-moment spontaneity, Don't Fight the Inevitable is that rare sophomore disc that easily surpasses its predecessor.
Track Listing: Civilization on Trial; Don't Fight the Inevitable; Soundscape; Magic Chemical (For the Future); Charlie in the Parker; Trouble and Activity; Gone But Not Forgotten; Avaricious World.
Personnel: John Escreet: piano; David Binney: alto saxophone, electronics; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Matt Brewer: double-bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.