Sophisticated pianist Eric Olsen explores the western classical canon from a jazzman's perspective on the charming and delightful Sea Changes. The several selections on the disc span the range from Georges Bizet's "Carmen" to Olivier Messiaen and Jean Sibelius' modernistic compositions.
Olsen's charismatic and unique interpretations mark the album with his signature elegance and forms a common thread through it. From the hard boppish rendition of the traditional Irish hymn °Be Now My Vision" to the vibrant performance of Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" the quartet deftly fuses intricate harmonies with crackling spontaneity.
On the latter track both Olsen and bassist Ratzo B. Harris switch to electric instruments adding funky embellishments to the iconic melody. Saxophonist Don Braden lets loose a fiery flood of notes while drummer Tim Horner brings a rock and roll sensibility with his thundering beats. Both reflect the frenetic and riotous conclusion of the original. Meanwhile on the former Braden's resonant, breathy tenor channels the raw spirituality of the ancient sacred song. Olsen adds a deep soulfulness with his swaggering piano groove and his intelligent and emotive improvisation.
The reading of Messiaen's "Immortality" is deeply melancholic with Braden weaving within the wistful ambience brightly hued lilting lines that shimmer with warm vitality. His soprano's clear tones soar in a complex and tender extemporization over the band's exciting, mellifluous refrains. Olsen takes center stage with his crystalline cascade of notes that is exquisitely evocative. Harris' contrabass solo brims with graceful lyricism is laced with poetic phrases.
The only pop tune, guitarist George Harrison's "Something," opens with an energetic and expansive group play. Braden's acerbic soprano states the familiar theme over the percolating rhythm flourishes. Olsen's tight and crisp adlib pianism is filled with clever twists and turns while Braden's exuberance hints at saxophonist/clarinetist Sidney Bechet and the early days of jazz.
Olsen is not the first to meld these two great traditions but he does it with his singular sound and refined style. By getting to the core of each work and reconstructing it from a fresh and refreshing perspective he pays homage to the universality of the musical language.
Be Now My Vision; Elegy; My Man's Gone Now; Carmen Prelude; Immortality;
Something; Finlandia; Waltz In C# Minor; In The Hall Of The Mountain King.
Eric Olsen: piano; Don Braden: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Ratzo B. Harris:
bass; Tim Horner: drums.