In case you're not hip to the history of the Los Angeles jazz underground, this disc is a great opportunity to catch up. Eric von Essen, the late bassist and composer, played with a wide variety of memorable jazz artistsin addition to his more focused efforts with Nels Cline and the group Quartet Music. On The Music Of,
a cornucopia of musicians get together to celebrate the man and his music. The tunes, all by von Essen, are presented in pairs; each pair is performed by a different ensemble.
As a result of the changing personnel and moods, this disc offers a wide variety of sounds. In general, the tunes tend to have a lilting, swinging feel. The heads are relatively brief, and extended improvisation fills out the rest of the pieces. High points include "I Just Wanted to Talk to You," a gently lyrical composition performed by a piano trio. Alan Broadbent's piano work literally ripples and pulses with emotion as the piece develops. The two pieces performed by the reconstituted Quartet Music (with Michael Elizondo replacing von Essen on bass) mark the most savory moments on the disc. On "Petit Rayon" and "9/8/29," the combined strings of violinist Jeff Gauthier, guitarist Nels Cline, and bassist Elizondo resonate in unexpected and creative ways. Alex Cline's subtle work on the drums protects and decorates the beat without heavy-handedness. Finally, "Paulo's Song," a Latin-flavored ballad, gets expert treatment by a trio consisting of pianist Alan Pasqua (who has a feather-light touch), bassist Dave Carpenter (who makes the pulse truly throb), and drummer Peter Erskine (whose detailed and off-kilter approach adds extra dimensions of time).
This disc was recorded during a six-month period, along with the two other volumes in this tribute series. It offers insight into von Essen's music, but also (especially) into the personalities of the artists he touched during his lifetime. The players on The Music of put together particularly sensitive and subtle interpretations of von Essen's pieces. One has the sense that listening serves just as important a role in his music as playing.
Personnel: Stacy Rowles: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tom Garvin: piano; Larry Koonse: electric guitar; Tom Warrington: bass; Paul Kreibich: drums; Alan Broadbent: piano; Putter Smith: bass; Kendall Kay: drums; Jeff Gauthier: violin; Nels Cline: acoustic and electric guitar; Michael Elizondo: bass; Alex Cline: drums, percussion; Alan Pasqua: piano; Dave Carpenter: bass; Peter Erskine: drums; David Witham: piano; Joel Hamilton: bass.