A jazz drummer with an extensive career, Jay has played in many diverse jazz groups. After graduating from college in Minnesota, he studied polyrhythmic concepts in New York with Barry Altschul, the drummer in Chick Corea's Circle. He has lived in Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis, and played in house bands for 5 years on several cruise ships. His CD "Long Ago" featuring bassist Anthony Cox & pianist Bill Carrothers, has garnered luminous reviews in the national press. Recently he’s returned from his 6th European tour.
Some of the notable artists he has performed with include Barney Kessel, Roseanna Vitro, Manfredo Fest, Sheila Jordan, Terry Gibbs, Greg Abate, Claudio Roditi, Gary Foster, Kim Richmond, Vinny Golia, JoAnne Brackeen, Ernie Watts, Wayne Johnson, Karrin Allyson, Kenny Werner, Howard Levy, Toots Thielmans, Avashai Cohen, and Sarah Vaughan.
Best Dressed at Winona Senior High
Ellis & Gretsch drums. Bosphorus cymbals.
CITY PAGES, By Rick Mason June 09, 2009
Jay Epstein with Bill Carrothers & Anthony Cox: Easy Company (GoneJazz
The company may be easy, but the ideas are complex and the playing
especially cerebral on this luminous summit of three of the smartest players
on the Twin Cities jazz scene. Drummer Jay Epstein, pianist Bill Carrothers
(who now lives on Michigan's U.P.), and bassist Anthony Cox all sport
extensive résumés that include innumerable sessions with international,
national, and local jazz heavy-hitters. That includes one another, but they
haven't recorded as a trio since the widely acclaimed neo-bop nugget Long
Ago a dozen years ago.
Easy Company is an admirable follow-up: a sparkling collection of uncommon
standards, surprising covers (Cream's "White Room," the Darth Vader theme
from Star Wars), a handful of Epstein originals, and a concluding suite that
juxtaposes wistfulness with the heart of darkness.
Distinguishing this trio in particular is the remarkable sense of lyricism each
brings to the music, with touches so supple that melodies seem to glide off
their instruments even while they probe the underlying depths of each piece
with an endless array of expressive nuances: Epstein's shimmering cymbal
work and clusters of rolling rhythms; Cox's fortuitous feints, alluring tone,
and bold bowing; Carrothers's ceaselessly inventive escapades on the ivories.
None is ever heavy-handed. Rather, they create sly conspiracies, like the
version of John Williams's "Imperial March" that kicks things off. It's lush,
almost romantic in spots, the shadowy portent of Vader conveyed by the
intricate weave of instruments, culminating in Epstein's subtly frenetic rumble
edging out front while Carrothers and Cox lurk nearby.
They follow with a dark, exotic version of Carla Bley's "Ida Lupino," Epstein
again splashing the cymbals as if spinning a web of whispers, Cox scampering
across with plump commentary while Carrothers ruminates on the melody. On
Dean Magraw's spiky "N.R. Chi," Carrothers and Epstein trade jagged bits that
flirt with free funk while Cox's pointillist runs settle into spooky, atmospheric
bowing under Carrother's stalking piano.
The concluding "Forgotten Soldiers Suite" begins with a bright, nostalgic run
through the standard "Midnight, the Stars & You," although Carrothers's
fractured chords midway through suggest looming trouble. Sure enough,
things get dramatically darker on Epstein's "Sgt. Rock," an unsettling viper's
nest of scurrying piano and bass figures, while Fred Coots's melancholy ballad
"For All We Know" is nearly as menacing thanks to its deliberate pace and
Epstein's hectoring cymbals. The album ends with Epstein's haunting
reflection on Art Spiegelman's Holocaust classic Maus, his drums grumbling
like distant thunder against Cox's cello-like bowing while Carrother's piano
quietly etches a sad, diffident melody.