Ellery Eskelin/Christian Weber/Michael Griener: The Pearls

Mark Corroto BY

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Ellery Eskelin/Christian Weber/Michael Griener: The Pearls
It's Interesting that Ellery Eskelin chose time as the subject of his liner notes essay for this release, because his music has always had a feeling of timelessness about it. His discourse ranges from concrete sundials to wrist watches and atomic clocks to the abstraction of music's swing and stop-time improvisations. Without diving too deep into a philosophical argument about whether time moves only irreversibly forward, the saxophonist, Swiss bassist Christian Weber, and German drummer Michael Griener, proceed to time travel from the present to 1914, with a skip into the 1920s and 40s.

Much like their previous release Sensations of Tone (Intakt Records, 2017), the traditional sax/bass/drums trio dives into pre-WWII jazz. While their takes on Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, J. Russel Robinson, and Count Basie & Harry "Sweets" Edison remain faithful to the original scripts, don't expect Lincoln Center Jazz to come calling these three anytime soon. Rather than mimic Joplin's "Magnetic Rag," Eskelin energizes it, playing with period sounds and musical gestures. Same for Morton's "The Pearls." Griener coats his drums with brushes and Weber's bass states the melody with Eskelin before he takes a solo that would have fit naturally on a bandstand in 1914. From ragtime to swing, the two minute cover of Basie and Edison's "Jive At Five" retains the elegance and nimbleness of the original supplemented and amplified by the "to-die-for"-Lester Young' lushness of Eskelin's tenor tone.

Just as easily as the trio time travels backward, they come back to a free jazz future. "ABC," "Le Fée Verte," "Rue Jardiniére," "Il Gatto," and "Black Drop" explore another set of time rules. Strict time keeping is cast aside, but not at the expense of expression. And why not—the trio has an assorted bag of emotive tools that undoubtedly strike the ear with the same surprise and wonder as the those first encounters with jazz in the early 20th century.

Track Listing

ABC; Magnetic Rag; Le Fée Verte; The Pearls; Rue Jardiniére; Jive At Five; Il Gatto; Eccentric Rag; Black Drop.


Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone; Christian Weber: contra bass; Michael Griener: drums.

Album information

Title: The Pearls | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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