Trumpeterr/flugelhornist Nathan Eklund's The Crooked Line offers a pretty good measure of his quintet's capabilities. Anyone hearing much of this album, without any prior identification, would likely tab this to be straight out of the hallowed Blue Note era of the early-to-mid 1960s.
The title track is an attractive post-bop vehicle; the jaunty trumpet melody and solo insinuating the memories of Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham and Johnny Coles. Joe Elefante's florid piano solo is right in the pocket and sets up a robust tenor sax statement from Craig Yaremko who, if you close your eyes, could be a young Joe Henderson. The tune also finishes with a Josh Dion drum solo.
The track is more or less typical of the album. A variety of tunes, mostly originals, find the quintet in a comfortable groove led by Eklund's warm tone. Although he doesn't have the power of a Lee Morgan or Freddy Hubbard, the spirit is there. The album's one ballad, "More Than One Way," is a good example of his attractive flugelhorn style. Yaremko plays alto sax on "The Mayor" and soprano on "Kaydee," but his calling card is the sure-footed tenor work on the remainder of the album. Elefante provides some nice comping and solos, bringing the influence of Herbie Hancock's early brand.
Eklund chooses three tunes that are not his own. One is Icelandic popster Björk's mid-tempo "Isobel" and, along with tenor saxman Yarembo, he turn it into a more than passable track. The Jerome Kern jazz standard "All the Things You Are" is a fine opportunity for all hands to take flight. The only miscue is the appearance of a Lee Morgan tune, "Totem Pole," performed against a tango pulse which sounds forced.
All in all, The Crooked Line brings a keen insight into some new and exciting musicians.
Personnel: Nathan Eklund: trumpet, flugelhorn; Craig Yaremko: saxophones; Joe Elefante: piano; Brain Killeen: bass; Josh Dion: drums.