Bassist Damian Erskine is a master in the art of rhythmic trickery. Erskine, the nephew of famed jazz drummer Peter Erskine
, has put together a program of original music that demonstrates his skills as a bassist, composer, and manipulator of time. The material here, whether placed in an odd time signature or simply feeling like it might be, is fusion-leaning music with some Latin underpinnings. The odd-metered workouts, bass virtuosity, and edgy guitar work from Chris Mosley help the music to lean toward fusion, while the percussion work from Rafael Trujillo, along with Mosley's note choices and pianist Ramsey Embick's playing, provide the Latin emphasis.
The fusion/Latin hybridization is best demonstrated on the opener, "Inside Out"an introduction to the pairing of Erskine's syncopated bass work and Mosley's intense guitar lines. When Embick joins in, and the percussion takes on a more prominent role, the music takes a turn toward the Latin side of things. The odd-metered "FIF" opens with a rock solid groove in fifteen. It eventually evolves, through a rumbling percussion solo, and winds up with a completely different feel in five before returning to the original groove. "Kaluanui" has a smoother, more straight-ahead fusion orientation than the earlier tracks and the album benefits from this contrast.
"American Gyro," featuring some spacey sounds and straightforward delivery, tends to meander and lose focus, but the band quickly rebounds. The music shifts to a post-modern jazz sound on "Light," and this proves to be one of the strongest performances on the album. Reinhardt Melz provides a steady, enthusiastic ride pattern, while a saxophone/piano combination spins out an absorbing melody line. Erskine's solo is one of the track's highlights, and Melz's move to brushes lends the music a different character. Erskine follows this delightful detour with a choppy, syncopated bass line on the engaging "Aslant," which brings the band back to more familiar territory.
Rhythmic mastery and the Erskine name continue to be synonymous with Damian Erskine's smoking performances on So To Speak.
Personnel: Damian Erskine: bass; Reinhardt Melz: drums; Ramsey Embick: piano; Chris Mosley: guitar; Rafael Trujillo: percussion; John Nastos: tenor saxophone; Jason Dumars: soprano saxophone; Paul Mazzio: trumpet; Derek Rieth: percussion.