John Escreet just keeps pressing forward with recordings that are not stuck in the quagmire of normalcy. From his auspicious debut, Consequences (Posi-tone, 2008), to his equally ambitious sophomore release, Don't Fight The Inevitable (Mythology Records, 2010), the young pianist has demonstrated imagination and abilities in the same vein as Jason Moran and Craig Taborn. His third release, The Age We Live In, is no exception.
From the thematic arc of "Intro," "Interlude" and "Outro," with its dramatic interplay of strings and drums, to exhilarating, no-holds-barred feats of ensemble members and co-producer/saxophonist David Binney, the music reflects Escreet's countenance as an omnivorous listener and daring composer. This mindset prevails throughout, whether in moments of totally rocked-out tempos, twisting changes with searing solos, and atmospheric voices in "Half Baked," a hyper-speed ostinato in "Kickback," or some thoughtful contemplating in "A Day In Music," where the modal changes are subtle and aggressive, closing with a bold brass section.
The recording greatly benefits from Escreet and Binney's production work; a contemporary and artistic slant that has been present in the pianist's two prior releases and in Binney's equally impressive Graylen Epicenter (Mythology Records, 2011). The juxtaposition of electronic and natural sounds is substantive and aesthetically pleasing in "As The Moon Disappears," as Escreet probes on acoustic piano alongside synthesized textures. The barnburner is, without a doubt, the almost eleven-minute title track, which encompasses a range of ideas including electronica, jungle-ism, smoldering individual and group connection, while still managing to obliterate the groove.
From beginning to end, the backbone is provided by Marcus Gilmore's tight drumming, which gets the full spotlight in "Stand Clear" with a boisterous solo. Everyone's on point with a special nod to guitarist Wayne Krantz, who simply cranks it up a notch on every track with a variety of sonicstwangs, smooth tones and jagged riffs. He puts down some funky rhythm work in "Half Baked," while delivering unforgettable solos in the title track and "The Domino Effect," following Escreet's own zealous playing.
When considering the process of creating progressive jazz and the "chicken versus egg" theory, it's difficult to know at times which came firstthe art or its conception. The spontaneity can be found in exhausting composition or in the heat of improvisation. Regardless, Escreet is emerging as a formidable conceptualist who can harness these elements into fully realized works that have both verve and vision, as witnessed in this brilliant release.
Intro; The Domino Effect; Half Baked; The Age We Live In; Kickback; A Day In Music; Interlude; Hidden Beauty; As The Moon Disappears; Stand Clear; Another Life; Outro.
John Escreet: piano, Rhodes, keyboards; David Binney: alto saxophone, electronics; Wayne Krantz: guitar; Marcus Gilmore: drums, percussion; Tim Lefebvre: bass (4, 6); Brad Mason: trumpet; Max Seigel: trombone; Christian Howe: strings.
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