John Escreet: The Age We Live In (2011)
Pianist John Escreet's meteoric rise into the pantheon of forward-thinking jazz composers has everything to do with his understanding of the fast-paced way of life that seems to have overtaken much of society. Everything is absorbed in little bites, quick flashes, and small doses by the younger generations that have been brought up in this short-attention-span world, and Escreet's music is accepting of this fact. However, it doesn't bow down to the idea that these quick flashes of information can't be connected or tied together within some sort of thematic, rhythmic or emotional netting. The Age We Live In is proof that he can have it both ways.
Brief snapshots of industrial sound, like the 30-second "Intro," "Interlude" and "Outro," are the most obvious example of Escreet's enthusiasm for quick bursts of musical thought, but the entire album is really built on an ever-shifting column of thought and sound. The title track, lasting nearly eleven minutes, is a wondrous slice of information overload, where ideas collide like fists in a boxing match. Some might just see the pain in this activity, but those who understand boxing can appreciate the beauty in the barbarity.
In other places, Escreet allows the strong personalities of his musicians to define where the music will go. Guitarist Wayne Krantz is superb throughout, as he brings a raunchy, progressive-jazz energy to a good number of these pieces. Thanks to Krantz, "The Domino Effect" comes off like music made for a demonic pinball machine, but he isn't all fire and brimstone. The guitarist helps to shape the emotional narratives of "Another Life" and "A Day In Music" with his firm, yet supportive, sound. Drummer Marcus Gilmore's muscular approach moves Escreet's music forward in every instance. Gilmore performs like stunt driver, using his experience and skills to steer the band through some incredibly tricky turns, and this helps to create a foundation for Escreet's mile-a-minute musical thoughts.
Escreet has become an important member of saxophonist David Binney's inner circle, and Binney has been an important presence on Escreet's other albums Consequences (Posi-Tone, 2009) and Don't Fight The Inevitable (Mythology, 2010)and the pianist has taken the saxophonist's be-your-own-man musical philosophy to heart. While Escreet occasionally steps onto Binney's aural turf ("A Day In Music"), more often than not he tends to his own musical patch of land, having learned the lesson that you don't have to follow others to find success within your own music. As for Binney's performances here, he's his characteristic, brilliant self. His saxophone work is brimming with the charm of the unpredictable, his ideas can be razor sharp and rousing, and his electronics help to fill out the sound of the group without overshadowing any of the other elements at play.
The Age We Live, like Binney's own Graylen Epicenter (Mythology, 2011), takes the racing pace of the modern day man and refracts it through a musical prism, creating heart-pounding sounds that thrillingly reflect how we move through life.
Track Listing: Intro; The Domino Effect; Half Baked; The Age We Live In; Kickback; A Day In Music; Interlude; Hidden Beauty; As The Moon Disappears; Stand Clear; Another Life; Outro.
Personnel: John Escreet: piano, Fender rhodes, keyboards; David Binney: alto saxophone, electronics; Wayne Krantz: guitar; Marcus Gilmore: drums, percussion; Tim Lefebvre: bass (4, 6); Brad Mason: trumpet; Max Siegel: trombone; Christian Howes: strings.
Record Label: Mythology Records