One of the Phoenix's brightest lights, pianist-composer-vocalist Rachel Eckroth, who has ably added depth to the music of such polar opposites as Chris Botti, Rufus Wainwright, and St. Vincent, leaves no stone unturned in The Garden, her darkly convincing, Rainy Day Records debut.
It is immediately apparent that Eckroth hears things unlike the rest of us. Her music is a prowling evolution, full of darkness yet attainable, redeemable light. Without hesitancy, she shapes and seizes, assembles, dissects, and embraces modern schemes and possibilities, creating a most compelling listen along the way.
With a cool dose of electronica filling its sails, "Dracena" muscles to the fore on a sturdy drums and bass backbeat pulse (courtesy of bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Christian Euman), which pulls the music to it while forcing the doors open for Eckroth and saxophonist Donny McCaslin to dart, twist, wail and finally break down into a miasmic swarm of dissonant odd noise. "Under the Fig Tree" and "Low Hanging Fruit" put Eckroth fiercely and firmly in charge, her formidable piano instincts hurtling straight ahead into the syncopated displacement of both pieces. Lefebvre and Euman prove themselves a particularly nimble unit, while McCaslin's snakey sense and tone are aided and abetted by the elusive textures of fellow saxophonist Andrew Krasilnikov, guitarist Nir Felder and modular synthesist Austin White.
Since Eckroth flirts with everything, deliberate splashes of everything color The Garden, the tune itself a lilting conjecture reminiscent of a 1940's romance theme until darker forces prevail and a confident post bop takes hold, only to bend back to the opening love scene. "Dried Up Roots," the lone vocal here, is a standout of mood and hushed, ambient valor in the manner of singer-songwriter hood such as Fiona Apple or Tori Amos. "Vines" is a delirious slice of free jazz while the closing "Oil" slips and slides from funk to fusion to full blown rock anthem reverie. It is fun to listen to. Stay tuned.
Dracena; Under the Fig Tree; Low Hanging Fruit; Dried Up Roots; The Garden; Black Eyed Susan; Vines; Oil.
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