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John Escreet: Music for This Age

By Published: August 22, 2011
The pianist has been playing with musicians like Binney, Akinmusire, Matt Brewer
Matt Brewer
Matt Brewer
and Nasheet Waits
Nasheet Waits
Nasheet Waits
. He also has a trio with drummer Sorey and bassist John Hébert. The Age We Live In came about because of a gig he played in February of 2010 with the guys who are on the album. That vibe resonated with Escreet.

"It was a random gig and it was so ridiculously happening that my first thought was, 'Wow. I have to document this.' My previous album was just about to be released [Don't Fight the Inevitable (Mythology, 2010)]. I was already thinking ahead. Then this gig and the opportunity kind of presented itself," he says. Because of busy schedules, it was December of 2010 before the wheels really got rolling, and the music was recorded just before Christmas of that year. The group was assembled just for the recording and is not particularly a working band. Escreet was confident these musicians would fit his conception. The results show he was right.

"It came about as a surprise, just from doing that one gig. It came from a lot of desire to play with Wayne. Wayne and I had worked together previously on Dave's Aliso (Criss Cross, 2010). It came out of a desire to play with [Wayne] some more, and I decided not to hire a bassist because we had enough bass between my left hand and Wayne's guitar, his octave pedal and stuff," says Escreet. "I wanted it to be a little different. I also wanted Dave to be involved because Wayne and Dave are close musical collaborators. So the music would make sense. Dave fits my musical vision very well, anyway. Then I asked Marcus, who's a good friend of mine and one of my favorite drummers. His knack for this music is really great. His pocket for this music, his groove, is exceptional. I knew he would fit the style of this recording like a glove."

He composed the music with the players in mind and the concept he visualized. "Even though the music is kind of complex and composed in places, I wanted to allow each member of the group a lot of space to be themselves and stretch out. I wanted a good balance between the heavy compositional stuff and letting them just be themselves. That, in my experience, is conducive to the best music, when you really just allow people to be themselves," he says.

The results show a variety of dense music, with fiery solos fitting in, like on "Domino Effect" and "The Age We Live In," and grooves, as on "Half Baked." Some music switches back and forth. The solos are hot and Escreet's piano, whether acoustic or electric, is intricate and exploratory.

"We rehearsed for two days straight in my apartment," he recalls. "Then we played a weekend at 55 Bar [New York City] immediately after the rehearsals. So we got a chance to rehearse this stuff for two days, play it out for two days, then we went upstate to Rhinebeck, NY, [at The Clubhouse] and spent two days in the studio. Altogether, it was like a six-day period. We got a chance to delve into the music. It wasn't easy, because some of the music is challenging and difficult. Everyone gave 110 percent and the results speak for themselves.

"Also, we worked very hard on the post production. Me and Dave. I'm very indebted to Dave for this particular recording because he and I worked very, very hard after the actual recording. We overdubbed strings, we overdubbed brass, and we overdubbed backing vocals. All this kind of stuff. Overdubbed percussion. We spent a lot of time on post-production, which is definitely something I'm interested in exploring. I think it's very valid, creatively. People don't really explore that enough, in my opinion."

When it comes to composing, Escreet says his influences are wide-ranging. "Without trying to be too vague, I listen to lots and lots of different styles and genres and types of music. My taste has definitely broadened over the last few years. Everything is an influence in this kind of music. Electronica music, such as Flying Lotus, that kind of stuff. And I practice a lot of classical piano music. There are some direct influences from French composers like [Olivier] Messiaen ... even though the music is nothing like 20th Century classical music, it's further from that. But there are some direct influences there, in terms of some of the intervals and the harmonies. My compositional influences are all over the map."

Much of the music emanating from jazz musicians today isn't strictly out of the jazz bag, and Escreet views that as a good thing.

"That's the nature of where music is at these days. There's so much information that's readily accessible. It's a cumulative thing. As you get further on in time, as the universe gets older, there's a greater depth of music as time goes on. That's just how it is. The well of influence is just filling up and filling up. Becoming broader. It's natural that music will draw from much more different influences as time goes on. That will only continue, in my opinion."

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