All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

312

Jesse Elder: The Winding Shell

Chris Mosey By

Sign in to view read count
A small black and white picture on the sleeve shows 29-year-old New York avant-garde pianist/composer Jesse Elder, unsmilingly clasping a hand to his head. His eyes are shut tight, screwed up as if in pain.

Below the picture a note explains that The Winding Shell is part of a series "dedicaded (sic) to Modern jazz, New classical, Avant rock, Experimental beats and Women voices." All the warning signs have been displayed: this is obviously not going to be an easy listen.

Fair enough. The idea that music should be easy to listen to was dealt a severe blow in the 1930s when emigré/Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg decided to abandon "the dominance of a centralized melodic idea." This resulted in him writing pieces that—to put it simply—were not in tune. Perhaps not surprisingly, nothing Schoenberg wrote ever topped the charts but he had a great and lasting influence on modern music. In jazz Bird, Diz and Trane—to name but a few—heeded his teachings.

Jesse Elder no doubt encountered Schoenberg's teachings in his studies at the Interlochen Arts Academy, the Oberlin Conservatory and New School University. He not only follows the master in abandoning a centralized melodic idea, but goes further in discarding symmetrical musical development and the idea of a fixed rhythmic pulse. To put it simply, his music is calculatedly chaotic. It's white man's, orchestrated loft jazz.

The first nine tracks—all Elder's own compositions—feature an ensemble of various New York jazzmen, including Gary Thomas on tenor saxophone and Logan Richardson on alto. Thomas, who once played with Miles Davis in one of his later, electric incarnations, plays a lengthy, quite interesting if fashionably discordant solo on one of Elder's most distinctive songs, "Surrender."

Tenor duties are taken over by Jeremy Viner on "Solar Plexus." One of the more listenable pieces, "The Thoughtful Nudge" is meditative with odd intervals—almost tuneful on occasion and featuring a nice, reflective solo by Elder. Chris Cheek, who has played with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band, plays tenor on "Flight of the Pelican," "Red Paint" and the title track. By now the music has settled into a nervy, jagged expression of existential angst...or something like it.

The last four tracks, improvisational duets by Elder and Japanese pianist Aya Nishina, a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, come as something of a relief after the unrelenting intensity of the ensemble pieces, though they are similarly chaotic.

The intention of the whole is undeniably serious, perhaps a little too much so for its own good.

People, Jesse Elder and friends have suffered for their music.

Now it's your turn.

Track Listing: Surrender; Solar Plexus; The Thoughtful Nudge; Flight Of The Pelican; Rotating Canvases; Kiss Rain; Red Paint; The Winding Shell; All Moments; I; II; III; IV.

Personnel: Logan Richardson: alto saxophone; Gary Thomas: tenor saxophone; Jess Elder: piano; Christopher Tordini: bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums; Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone; Jeremy Viner: tenor saxophone; Aya Nishina: piano.

Title: The Winding Shell | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Off

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Dreams And Other Stories CD/LP/Track Review
Dreams And Other Stories
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 22, 2018
Read The Nook CD/LP/Track Review
The Nook
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 22, 2018
Read Julius Eastman - Piano Interpretations CD/LP/Track Review
Julius Eastman - Piano Interpretations
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 22, 2018
Read Moments Before CD/LP/Track Review
Moments Before
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 22, 2018
Read From The Vault: No Security, San Jose '99 (2CD + SD Blu Ray) CD/LP/Track Review
From The Vault: No Security, San Jose '99 (2CD + SD...
by John Kelman
Published: September 22, 2018
Read with whom you can be who you are CD/LP/Track Review
with whom you can be who you are
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 21, 2018
Read "Journey" CD/LP/Track Review Journey
by Troy Dostert
Published: July 1, 2018
Read "What’s to Come" CD/LP/Track Review What’s to Come
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 28, 2018
Read "Live In Europe" CD/LP/Track Review Live In Europe
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 3, 2018
Read "Barxeta II" CD/LP/Track Review Barxeta II
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 19, 2018
Read "Trio Stonk: Live At Smalls" CD/LP/Track Review Trio Stonk: Live At Smalls
by David A. Orthmann
Published: November 4, 2017
Read "Sweet Beyond Witness" CD/LP/Track Review Sweet Beyond Witness
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 3, 2018