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Chad Eby Quartet: The Sweet Shel Suite

Mark Corroto By

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Reading poet Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree once again as an adult, it is improbable that one would take away the same message as you did reading the book as a child. The boy in the story grows up playing in the branches of the tree and eating its fruit, eventually cutting the trunk for wood. In the end, the giving tree has nothing left to give, except for a stump to sit on. Is the book about unselfish friendship, or man's eco-terrorism? Is it counterpart to Siddhartha and unconditional love? The answer of course is yes, yes, and yes.

Saxophonist Chad Eby wrote the nine compositions for The Sweet Shel Suite, a tribute to Silverstein. The music, like the author's children's poetry, might have a different meaning for the adult listener. Eby utilizes the meter and pace of the poet's writing (without the words) to build a heartfelt tribute.

Silverstein's poetry put to music, like Jack Kerouac reading with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, emphasizes Silverstein's images. The wackiness of "Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me, Too" passes through multiple time signatures fusing a child's rhyme with bebop. Eby's quartet of trumpeter Brandon Lee, bassist Steve Haines, and drummer Daniel Faust chases the tongue-twisting music through its playful switches and swipes, making the complicated seem simple. Just as children were probably faster to adopt the coltish sounds of Ornette Coleman's music in 1959, Eby's "Falling Up" and "Masks" shadow the trumpet interplay of Coleman and Don Cherry with "Falling Up" juxtaposing of the song's chords and melody. Eby works under the pretense of naivete, only to reveal the hip worldliness of this music.

The urgency of "Ourchestra" recalls the grand Blue Note experiments of the 1960s with its muscular musical workout, Eby and Lee facing off like Joe Henderson and Lee Morgan. The music begins with children's rhymes, but burns scorchingly hot. Same for "The Dance of the Shoes" with Eby switching to soprano saxophone and Lee with trumpet mute. Daniel Foust's brush work simulates a tap dancer's frizzled moves as the piece sprints to its conclusion. Changing gears, his heartfelt composition "Years From Now, When I'm Gone" opens with a doleful bass solo and its ineffable melody is beautifully performed and obligingly satisfying.

Track Listing: Lester (The Wish-Waster); The Long Haired Boy; Ourchestra; Years From Now, When I'm Gone; Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me, Too; Masks; Falling Up; The Clock Man; The Dance of the Shoes.

Personnel: Chad Eby: saxophones; Brandon Lee: trumpet; Steve Haines: bass; Daniel Foust: drums.

Title: The Sweet Shel Suite | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced

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