Saxophonist Ellery Eskelin's trio with Andrea Parkins and Jim Black is so tight, so dense, that it's hard to imagine another musician in the mix. But on this double-disc set he adds vocalist Jessica Constable and on three tracks augments the group up to a quintet with Phillippe Gelda on keyboards and vocals. The results are every bit as satisfying as the work of the trio he's led for a dozen years and every bit as dense and musical as well.
Quiet Music is an apt enough name for the fourteen tracks recorded over two days in 2002, but Jazz Music or Song Music would have been just as good, since it's not really those either. While the compositions are often mid-tempo or slower and are never quite loud, they're never subdued either. For most of the first half, Constable pairs with sax, piano or accordion lines, as if trying to find a place for herself within the taut trio. Rarely out front, she slides around through the pieces, wandering but not lost. Not having a fixed address in the band in fact probably helps her find her place.
Parkins' keyboards and accordion have always contributed so much to the sound of the trio that when Gelda appears as a second keyboardist he's barely noticed. It's not until the final of the three tracks he contributes to, his only one on the looser second disc, that he leaps out. Olivier Mercaud's "Le Berceuse d'Angela becomes a sacred song with Gelda's soft, deep voice and is one of the few truly quiet moments on the disc. As if the song finally brought the session to quietude, it's followed up by a rich twenty-minute exploration which closes the disc, reviving after the first five to a sort of pounding theme, but a quiet pounding.
It's impressive that Eskelin has kept the same instrumentation vital for so long and just as impressive that he's fit a couple more voices into the fold without changing the sound of the core group. Quiet Music adds to a considerable discography for his trio.
Track Listing: Coordinated Universal Time; I Should Have Known; 48 A & B; Read My Mind; Instant Counterpoint; How Do I Know?; Quiet Music; Split the Difference; Cuarenta Y Neueve; The Curve; Let's Change the Subject; Like I Say; La Berceuse d'Angela; Tomorrow is a New Day.
Personnel: Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone; Jessica Constable: voice; Andrea Parkins: piano, organ, accordion, sampler; Jim Black: drums, percussion; Philippe Gelda: piano, organ, vocal.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.