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Album Review

Joshua Espinoza: Songs From Yesterday


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Joshua Espinoza: Songs From Yesterday
The period of reflection afforded by the pandemic continues to provide fertile ground for musical expression. For pianist Joshua Espinoza, it gave him time to reflect on childhood and his early musical memories. This eventually evolved into his second album, Songs of Yesterday. This follows on from his first release, Journey Into Night (Self-produced, 2019).

With Mexican and Appalachian parents, Espinoza has two distinct strands of musical heritage to draw upon. He explores both, alongside bassist Kris Monson and drummer Jaron Lamar Davis. His trio are primarily concerned with searching and improvising around blends of classical, folk and pop-influenced jazz. Espinoza composed five of the nine tracks here.

There are four covers of songs by his favourite song writers. According to many sources, John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "Yesterday" is the most covered song ever. Espinoza's piano provides a straight reading of the song, letting the melody do the talking, although Davis' percussion occasionally threatens to drive the track into some new areas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, no new nuances of the song are revealed. After all, there may be a lucky few hearing this for the first time. Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" achieved widespread popularity after John Cale 's version was featured in Shrek (2001). Again, Espinoza chooses to play it straight as Monson's bass adds interest and texture.

The other two covers offer far more creativity. Another frequently covered Lennon and McCartney song, "Eleanor Rigby," starts as expected, before thrashing drums break it up and pulsing piano and a bass solo bring vitality before reverting back to the familiar tune, skillfully balancing familiarity and flair. A bass pulse introduces the hymn-like "And So It Goes." Espinoza wrings every nuance from this Billy Joel tune, subtly deviating from the original to add depth and passion. His stately timing results in a complete triumph (see the YouTube).

Espinoza's own composition, "Appalachian Wanderer," is another stand-out. It begins with a light folky melody with a cascading piano before his classical influences come to the fore during the improvisations. The bright mid-tempo "Happy Song," written by Monson, again has that flowing classical influence underneath. "Michoacan" offers a jaunty angular piano riff with tight and complex group interplay before moving into bluesy territory for the last minute. That interplay is also apparent in the three-note piano motif that dominates "Adrift" and the interesting stop start rhythm in "Don't Fan The Flames," where a variety of phrasing and energy shows well-rehearsed attention to detail.

The trio's combination of ideas makes this an engaging and entertaining album with complex flavours of Latin and folk. Monson and Davis combine to bring energy and rhythmic drive, whilst Espinoza's playing is nimble and often unpredictable, bringing a welcome freshness of approach.

Track Listing

Adrift; Appalachian Wanderer; Happy Song; Yesterday; Michoacan; Eleanor Rigby; And So It Goes; Don't Fan The Flame; Hallelujah.


Joshua Espinoza: piano; Kris Monson: bass; Jaron Lamar Davis: drums.

Album information

Title: Songs From Yesterday | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Self Produced

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