Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

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

More Articles

Read Shadow Work CD/LP/Track Review Shadow Work
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Veterans of Jazz CD/LP/Track Review Veterans of Jazz
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Ariel CD/LP/Track Review Ariel
by Paul Rauch
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Fukushima CD/LP/Track Review Fukushima
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Dedication CD/LP/Track Review Dedication
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 21, 2017
Read Surface of Inscription CD/LP/Track Review Surface of Inscription
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 21, 2017
Read "Far From Over" CD/LP/Track Review Far From Over
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 13, 2017
Read "The Swimmer" CD/LP/Track Review The Swimmer
by Phil Barnes
Published: March 4, 2017
Read "Adam's Apple" CD/LP/Track Review Adam's Apple
by Greg Simmons
Published: April 26, 2017
Read "Light Shines In" CD/LP/Track Review Light Shines In
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 2, 2016
Read "Peace" CD/LP/Track Review Peace
by Budd Kopman
Published: December 18, 2016
Read "Live at Club Helsinki" CD/LP/Track Review Live at Club Helsinki
by Doug Collette
Published: January 15, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor