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Nathan Eklund Group: The Crooked Line (2007)

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Nathan Eklund Group: The Crooked Line How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Nathan Eklund may only have been recording as a bandleader for a few years, but he already belongs in the class of such artists as Randy Brecker, Rick Braun and, perhaps, the greats he counts among his inspirations. Born near Seattle, Washington, Eklund began playing trumpet at age eleven, and later added the flugelhorn.

Interested in the music of jazz legends Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown, Eklund studied classical trumpet at Central Washington University. After further studies and a move to New York City, Eklund established his own quintet. He has also performed or recorded with several notable jazz artists including Joe Lovano, Richie Cole, Chuck Loeb, Eddie Daniels and Gerald Veasley, appearing on Spyro Gyra's Grammy-nominated Wrapped in a Dream (Heads Up, 2006).

The Crooked Line, the Nathan Eklund Group's second release, features the ensemble in a straight jazz setting, performing seven songs written by Eklund and three covers he arranged.

"Emancipated Thinking is an aptly titled piece. Eklund and saxophonist Craig Yaremko share the lead on the opening sequence of this delightful tune. Pianist Joe Elefante, bassist Brian Killeen and drummer Josh Dion underscore the leads quite effectively, with Elefante quickly getting into a free-spirited solo. The rhythm section is more subtle when Eklund takes point, but picks it up as his solo continues, with Killeen also contributing a solo.

One of the covers is "Isobel, by pop star Bjork. To one who isn't familiar with the original, it hardly matters. Eklund's arrangement stands alone, with sharp performances by all. Yaremko delivers a sizzling saxophone solo, while Dion, Killeen and Elefante get their licks in. After the solos, the band kicks into high gear for a stunning conclusion.

While all the tracks are free-spirited, and all but two—one being a 27-second prelude—clock in at more than six minutes, the title song may be the most expressive. "The Crooked Line is an exercise in stretching out, with Eklund, Elefante, Yaremko and Killeen taking turns with solos, then each engaging in a call-and-response sequence with Dion before the group closes it out.

From start to finish, The Crooked Line is engaging, with each musician having an opportunity to shine while maintaining the group dynamic.

Track Listing: The Mayor; Emancipated Thinking; Isobel; Scatterbrained Prelude; Scatterbrained; More Ways Than One; All the Things You Are; Kydee; Totem Pole; The Crooked Line.

Personnel: Nathan Eklund: trumpet, flugelhorn; Craig Yaremko: saxophones; Joe Elefante: piano; Brian Killeen: bass; Josh Dion: drums.

Record Label: Jazz Excursion Records

Style: Modern Jazz


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