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Jay Epstein: Easy Company

Bruce Lindsay By

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One or two jazz standards, a handful of intriguing left-field choices, some interesting originals and one truly exceptional re-working of a classic love song— Easy Company is an album of pleasing surprises, performed by three extremely talented musicians. Drummer Jay Epstein leads the trio and contributes all five original compositions, but this is a genuine group performance on which all three players shine.

The album opens with left-field choice number one: John Williams' "Imperial March," better known as the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars (1977). Stripped of its cinematic context and orchestrations, it turns out to be a pleasant, swinging introduction to the album, although the mix tends to overemphasize Epstein's cymbals to the detriment of Bill Carrothers' delicate piano melody. "White Room," the Cream classic by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown from Wheels Of Fire (Polydor, 1968), fares less well—without Bruce's vocal the tune lacks focus—but the band's version of Carla Bley's "Ida Lupino," from Dinner Music (ECM 2000), is exquisite.

Epstein's own compositions stand up well in comparison to the better-known tunes. "Giza" is especially impressive—a slinky, slow and occasionally fragmented tune with a strong, lyrical solo from bassist Anthony Cox.

The final four tunes are grouped together as the "Forgotten Soldier Suite," dedicated by Epstein to "all whose bloodshed has faded from memory." It is here that the trio produces the finest piece on the album—an original take on J Fred Coots and Sammy Lewis' "For All We Know." The song's message—take the chance today, because tomorrow may never come—means that the song has often been linked to lovers separated by conflict, and so its place in the Suite is unsurprising. Epstein's arrangement is underpinned by a slow, funereal march that immediately creates a somber mood. On top of this, Carrothers plays a fractured, metallic melody line which emphasizes the poignancy of the tune and serves to extend the sense of sadness and loss. It is not a hopeful reading of the song, but it is a starkly beautiful one.

Track Listing: Imperial March; Ida Lupino; N. R. Chi; Giza; Major Major; Moon and Sand; White Room; Never Let Me Go; Pick 3; Giza Plateau; Midnight, the Stars and You; Sgt. Rock; For All We Know; Maus.

Personnel: Jay Epstein: drums; Bill Carrothers: piano; Anthony Cox: bass.

Title: Easy Company | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: GoneJazz

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