The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Tyshawn Sorey Trio: Alloy (Pi Recordings)

Drummer Tyshawn Sorey's trio with bassist Christopher Tordine and pianist Cory Smythe in an album dedicated to Butch Morris and to his mother; intelligent and pensively restrained through-composed jazz influenced by modern composition as much as the history of the jazz trio. ... Click to View


Joshua Abrams: Represencing (Eremite)

CD issue of Joshua Abrams Sound World superb 2011 ensemble album with David Boykin, Chad Taylor (drums), David Boykin, Tomkea Reid, Nicole Mitchell, Jason Stein, Micahel Zerang, &c. organizing around grooves of the North African ceremonial instrument the guimbri. ... Click to View


Sun Ra & His Astro-Infinity Arkestra: Sign Of The Myth [VINYL] (Roaratorio)

Never before released material from the same sessions producing Sun Ra's mid-70s ABC/Impulse LPs, "Sign of The Myth" was recorded in 1973 in NYC with Sun Ra on the Moog, and a percussion-heavy and star-studded version of the Arkestra. ... Click to View


The Remote Viewers : Pitfall (Remote Viewers)

... Click to View


Faust: Just Us (Bureau B)

Founding Faust members Jean-Herve Peron and Zappi Diermaier release an album of "foundations" intended for collaboration with other musicians, or simply to be listened to as the work of a powerful duo of avante improvised rock that has stood the test of time since 1971. ... Click to View


Faust: Just Us [VINYL + CD] (Bureau B)

Founding Faust members Jean-Herve Peron and Zappi Diermaier release an album of "foundations" intended for collaboration with other musicians, or simply to be listened to as the work of a powerful duo of avante improvised rock that has stood the test of time since 1971. ... Click to View


Michel Banabila / Oene Van Geel: Music For Viola And Electronics (Tapu Record)

An electro-acoustic narrative for viola and electronics from the collaboration of Michel Banabila (electronics) and Oene van Geel (viola and violin), blending modular electronics with acoustic instrumentation for five lush, texturally complex and excursive works. ... Click to View


Celer & Machinefabriek: Numa / Penarie [VINYL 7-inch] (Self Released)

The collaboration between Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt and Celer) continues with their 2nd 7" of textured electronic collage and sound, packaged with a postcard, a download code, and two download videos. ... Click to View


A.F. Jones: Rearward Through Forgottenness (Laminal Recordings)

A compendium of compositions and improvisations from 2009-13 by undersea acoustician and audio engineer A.F. Jones, who uses stringed instruments and analog devices, hand-crafted and found, in works that emphasize structural components such as timbre, tone, or attack over form. ... Click to View


Ashley Paul: Heat Source (Important Records)

... Click to View


Dag Rosenqvist / Rutger Zuydervelt: Vintermusik (Zoharum)

Recorded in 2006, Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabkriek) and Dag Rosenqvist (aka Jaspter TX) built this album of experimental electronic music, a elegant combination of tonal, textural, drone, and concrete sounds. ... Click to View


Kurt Schwitters : Ursonate Und Andere Konsequente Dichtung (Wergo)

Harald Muenz, Georg Sachse, Sigrid Sachse interpret Kurt Schwitters "Sonata in Primal Sounds", linking language and musical forms of the sonata, first performed by Schwitters in 1925 in Germany, and representing one of the most historically influential works of sound poetry. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / John Butcher: The Natural Order (Northern Spy)

This album documents guitarist Fred Frith and saxophonist John Butcher's first head-to-head encounter in a recording studio, two titans of their instruments playing without overdubs in a single session for remarkable creative and sonic results. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Frode Gjerstad Quartet: Silver Cornet (NESSA)

The last stop on the North American tour of The Bradford/Gjerstad Quartet (Bobby Bradford-cornet; Frode Gjerstad-alto sax & clarinet; Ingetbrigt Haker Flaten-bass; Frank Rosaly-drums), bridging generations through tremendous free improvisation. ... Click to View


Tom Chant / John Edwards / Eddie Prevost: All Change (Matchless)

Recorded in concert at The Network Theatre, Waterloo in London, 2012, the trio of Tom Chant on saxophone, John Edwards on bass and Eddie Prevost on drums present a tour de force of modern free jazz with great technical and conversational power. ... Click to View


Jurg Frey / Radu Malfatti: II (erstwhile)

Two works, one each from trombonist Radu Malfatti and clarinetist Jurg Frey, also credited with "instruments", field recordings and couterpoints; electroacoustic reductionist work of beautiful character that unfolds slowly and rewards attentive listeners in morphing sound. ... Click to View


Kevin Drumm / Jason Lescalleet: The Abyss (erstwhile)

Sound and noise artists Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet collaborate on this 2 CD set, a diverse set of sound pieces from slowly building drones to unsettling environments, with tapes punctuating the hallucinatory aspects of their rich and impressive aural tapestries. ... Click to View


Chop Shop: Grey Area [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Grey is the color of these murky recordings from Scott Konzelmann, AKA Chop Shop, sounding like they were recorded inside a furnace with distant punctuation occasionally contributing to the gloom of this oppressive audio environment. ... Click to View


Gen Ken & AMK: Smile [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

A collaboration of NYC sound artist Gen Ken Montgomery (Generator) and West Coast sound improviser AMK (Anthony Michael King), in an extended work of electronic improvisation presented over two cassette sides, a varied program that never overloads its listeners. ... Click to View


John Hudak: Listening To The Wind [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

John Hudak created "listening to the wind" using wind chimes, half of a phone conversation, and digital manipulation, splitting the work into an "inner" and "outer" side, altering the character of this murky emission. ... Click to View


Duncan Harrison / Dylan Nyoukis: The Many Great Necked / Jeer Sabbath [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

A split cassette, the first side presenting two live sets of vocals and tapes from Duncan Harrison; the second presenting Jeer Sabbath on vocals, tapes, trumpets, piano, clarinet, guitar, violin & other assorted instruments; both recording in the UK and reworking at Wino Lodge. ... Click to View


Thomas Carnacki / Vulcanus 68: Split [VINYL] (Alethiometer / Gigante)

A split LP from two Bay area electronic composers inspired by the masters of tape and electronic music: Vulcanus 68 in a nostalgic rendering of spliced and collaged tape techniques; and Thomas Carnacki in an engaging collage of identifiable or sinister sound. ... Click to View


Michael Pisaro: Continuum Unbound [3 CD Box Set] (Gravity Wave)

Three large works in a solid box with a 12 page color booklet of notes and images from composer Pisaro, working with Greg Stuart, Joe Panzner, Patrick Farmer and Toshiya Tsunoda, examining fragile discontinuities in the apparently continuous sound world. ... Click to View


Wollesen / Haffner / Naujo: Rasa Rasa (Tzadik)

Rasa Rasa members Kenny Wollesen, Dalius Naujo, Jonathon Haffner and Sean Francis Conway present the ancient polyphonic vocal music of Lithuania using a mix of ensembles, reviving the infectious grooves and ancient vocal rounds, aided by new instruments devised by Wollesen. ... Click to View


John Zorn: Transmigration Of The Magus (Tzadik)

Inspired by the Gnostic philosophies of the Nag Hammadi library, Zorn invokes the mystical journey of the soul through the bardo as a tribute to the passing of Lou Reed, presented by his Gnostic Trio of Bill Frisell, Kenny Wollesen, and Carol Emanuel, plus guests. ... Click to View


Lee Noyes: Truth In Opposition [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Sound artist Lee Noyes based this improvised laptop work on the 1776 work by James Beattie, "Essays: On the nature of truth, in opposition to Sopfifstry and Sceptifism", arguing that both consonance and dissonance are equally important to the perfection of harmony. ... Click to View


Michel Doneda : Everybody Digs Michel Doneda (Relative Pitch)

A collection of solo pieces from forward-thinking French soprano saxophonist Michel Doneda, using extended techniques and utilizing every inch of the horn, creating unconventional and captivating sonic expressions from the instrument. ... Click to View


Lacerda / Manso / Nilssen-Love / Zenicola: Bota Fogo (Bocian Records 2014/QTV/PNL)

A live recording of two extended improvisations at Audio Rebel's Quintavant in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from the quartet of Arthur Lacerda on guitar and electronics, electric bassist Felipe Zenicola, guitarist Eduardo Manso, and drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love. ... Click to View


Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet (Hawkins / Edwards / Yarde): 4 Blokes (Ogun)

Blue Notes drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo's quartet with three of London's finest improvisers--Jason Yarde on sax, John Edwards on bass, and Alexander Hawkins on piano--in live studio recordings of exciting and impressive structured free improv. ... Click to View


WHO Trio (Hemingway / Wintsch / Oester): Zoo [2 CDS] (Auricle)

Percussionist Gerry Hemingway's Who Trio with Michel Wintsch on piano and synth, and Banz Oester on double bass and lamp, in an outstanding 2 CD release contrasting their work in acoustic improvisation with "electric" improv, albeit an unusual take on the latter. ... Click to View


Email:



The Squid's Ear
Squidco Sales



EEwAP+JB(10)  

Ellery Eskelin's Trio with Andrea Parkins and Jim Black Marks 10 Years Together


By Kurt Gottschalk 2004-05-10

Greatness isn't measured on the clock. The Beatles recorded for a scant six years, and - depending on how you slice it - were together for about nine. John Coltrane's "classic quartet" coalesced in 1961 with a line-up that lasted until 1965. And the Sex Pistols changed the world in less than two years.

Marking their tenth anniversary, then, isn't what makes Ellery Eskelin's trio with Andrea Parkins and Jim Black great. But it's a milestone worth marking, and an event the group is celebrating with a new cd (their ninth for the Swiss label HatHut) which finds the trio joined by guitarist Marc Ribot and bassist Melvin Gibbs. Eskelin also shot, edited and released a dvd documenting the band's 2003 European tour. Another tour this year is taking them across the US, to Portugal and then to Quebec, where they'll open the 21st annual Victoriaville festival. If simple longevity didn't make them great, hard work, regular recording and annual trips across America and Europe did.

Ellery Eskelin with Andrea Parkins and Jim Black (as they are properly billed - "I really think 'Ellery Eskelin Trio' is way too polite for this band," Eskelin said) made its first public appearance on March 20, 1994, at the old Knitting Factory on Houston Street in lower Manhattan. On the heels of a more traditional line-up with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Phil Haynes, Eskelin had a particular new sound for which he was searching.

"When I put my band together, I was really looking for an accordionist," he said. At the time, he was intrigued with some European players - including Hans Hassler and Jean-Louis Matinier - but was interested in finding someone in the States. He drew up a list, he said, but Andrea Parkins kept coming up as he talked to other musicians.

He was already playing with Black ("Jim I had met somewhat before that time," he said - "We got together in late '93 and I just dug the sound immediately."), when he went to hear Parkins play with Ikue Mori at New York City's Roulette. In adding her to the line-up, he got someone who was already versed in keyboards, sampler, organ and piano as well. "I decided to use that because it was obviously a strong part of her thing," he said. "Her approach is not idiomatically jazz-oriented, so to get her to play things that go in that direction, you get some really interesting results."

From the beginning, he said, he had in mind forming a working unit.

"I was thinking of it as a band for sure," Eskelin said. "I knew it was going to be more than just a one-time project. Given the instrumentation, I think it surprised people when we did more than a couple of gigs and made more than one record. In the beginning, I might have seen three records as a reasonable achievement."

Parkins recalled approaching that first performance with apprehension and excitement.

"I remember the night," she said. "It was packed. I don't know if it was packed because of us or because John Zorn played after us. I wasn't sure what he was after, and I wasn't sure I could make it work. In order to make Ellery's music work, there's something tranformational that happens, there's a kind of sense of the moment. I remember thinking, 'I think this is good, but I'm not sure.'"

The trio soon reached Eskelin's three-record "reasonable achievement" and went well beyond. Their first release, Jazz Trash, issued by Songlines in 1994, was interesting for the instrumentation, but showed little of what the band would become.

"I've gone back and listened to that and thought, 'Yeah, that's definitely a first record by a band with a concept," Eskelin said. "It's not like the band got better; it changed. But I don't think I could go back and improve on Jazz Trash. I'm thrilled with that record. I think all the records are different enough to warrant having made them. It's more about documenting the changes and not a trajectory of getting better and better and better. Jazz Trash had a certain charm to it. It was kind of rickety in some ways, but I love that sound."

Soon after, they began a fruitful relationship with Hat Hut, and perhaps there is the argument for what makes a band thrive for a decade. With funding initially from the Swiss Bank Corporation and then private sponsorship from the furniture company Vitra and its chairman Rolf Fehlbaum, the band was able to work with some promise of a future, essentially a five-year recording and touring contract starting in 1998 - something unusual in the current jazz market. While such a relationship undoubtedly helped the band create and work toward a vision, securing that relationship, according to drummer Black, was another part of Eskelin's talent.

"He is really good at getting people to do handshakes and getting things done," Black said. "It's been very good for the band."

At first, the band was trying to find the sound Eskelin heard, something based on his love of old gutsy saxophone and organ trios but with challenging arrangements and mutations.

"It was a question of what exactly was this music we were playing," said Black. "I mean, it sounded good on paper, it made sense right away, but I was like 'OK, how can we do this?' There's a combination of elements that you've not quite heard before, and that's exciting."

For Parkins, the energy and overt emotions, the jazziness of the heads in Eskelin's compositions, were a surprise.

"He has charts that reek of majorness," she said. "I remember being really freaked out about it. I thought, 'Is this good?' It felt like too much flavor, corny.

"Right now, I think we're a great pop band," she added. "There's a lot of heartfelt, thematic, uncynical chord progressions that happen with a sense of rhythm. It is a tension and it works really well."

As they've grown into their sound, the band has worked backwards in a sense, from working through charts to employing more improvisation. 12 + (1) Imaginary Views, released in 2001, was the group's first all-improv outing. A new record, with guitarist Marc Ribot and bassist Melvin Gibbs, is due out later this year.

"Each idea [on Imaginary Views] was real simple: OK we're gonna start an improv, but during that improvisation I want this to happen," Eskelin said. "Like "Middle C," it's just a middle C on the staff. I think when I showed it to them, they laughed at me. It was the first time I said, 'Here's the material and I'm not going to arrange it.'"

"Middle C" might epitomize the trio's sympatico. The track opens with Eskelin's soulful playing, some scattered percussion and a sort of synthesized gong from Parkins. A drum roll and a swell of sound from the keyboard, a moment of organ and in about 90 seconds they find the piece, a nervously building trichotomy. Parkins overlays accordion, Black gets busier, drops out and returns. Just before the four-minute mark, they settle into a succinct, logical ending.

"We're thinking about middle C and we drop in and out," said Black. "I think it's a really good piece. The simplest idea could be a whole world in itself, given to the right people."

The piece is a tight piece of music, almost - as Parkins might put it - a pop song. It sounds as if it could have been a full score, but it's really just the work of a band that knows how to play together.

"I do admire the whole idea of having a band," he said. "I like one-offs - the first time I played with Han Bennink we shook hands five minutes before we hit the stage."

But that kind of spontaneity, he said, is a very different thing than the relationships built over years of playing together. He cites as an example NRBQ, the wide-ranging countrified blues and jazz group formed by Terry Adams in 1967. Eskelin had the chance to play with them recently at Brooklyn's Northsix.

"From the first few notes of the soundcheck, the feel was just awesome," he said. I thought this was the real thing. There's no other way to get that except for just being on the road constantly. And it was just as loose as any jazz gig I've been involved in. I realized that's a band, and what a wonderful thing to have bands out there."

Eskelin was raised in a musical household, listening to Gene Ammons (to whom he later paid tribute on the excellent The Sun Died with Marc Ribot and Kenny Wollesen), Stan Getz and Sonny Stitt as a child. Later, he discovered Coltrane's Giant Steps, and then Interstellar Space, which he described as a "revelation." But the music in the house wasn't just coming from the record player.

"I grew up listening to my mother play Hammond B-3 organ," he said. "When I was 10 years old, I decided I wanted to play saxophone and be a jazz musician."

But when Eskelin moved to New York in 1983, he found the old-school approach of woodshedding and auditioning for heroes was disappearing.

"You don't have apprenticeships anymore," he said. "I remember going to sit in with Art Blakely and trying to get noticed, and I just had to go and do my own thing. I got pieces of that, but I realized things were different. The 10-year-old kid who wanted to play jazz and had his idols never really got satisfaction. By the time I was on the scene, a lot of those people were dead and there were lots and lots of young saxophone players."

Instead he built his own house, playing with his contemporaries (notably with Joey Baron's Baron Down with Steve Swell) and started making tracks as a leader. He was named one of "25 for the Future" by Downbeat in 1999 and the trio was described in the British newspaper The Guardian as a band that "knows how to play simultaneously from the head and the heart, and for whom musical risk-taking has become a way of life."

The group brings in guests occasionally, as with the new project with Ribot and Gibbs or their ongoing collaboration with vocalist Jessica Constable. But they never uses substitute members, ensuring a consistency in sound. Still, that sound always has its origins in Eskelin's pen. They've recorded pieces by Monk, John McLaughlin, Lennie Tristano, Charlie Haden, Coltrane, Gershwin and even Eugene Chadbourne, but even with two other composers in the band, the songbook is written by the leader.

"I haven't thought about that really" Black said, when asked about bringing his own compositions to the group. "Ellery's never asked and I've never suggested. We're already bringing our music in every time. We don't need to mess it up with more charts."

Parkins concurred. "I think Ellery would be open to it, but [Jim and I] both have our own outlets," she said. "It's really been about Ellery's vision, but he gives us so much room.

"It's engaging on every level, and what could be better than that?" she added. "I think it's really rare that you get to do that in your professional life. The only thing that's not challenging is how we get along, and that's good."

It's a chemistry that would seem to ensure if not another decade at least plenty of time on the road in the years to come.

"I don't take it for granted that it's going to last forever," he said. "Every year that it goes on, I say, 'Hey, great!'

"It's still challenging, it's still developing," he added. "There's a lot more there than you would think given that instrumentation. I has more to do with the people than the instruments."

And it's a safe guess those people will be along for the ride.

""I'm not in a rush to stop," Parkins said. "So far he seems excited about continuing. If he's there, I'm there."






To discuss this article click here





The Squid's Ear is the companion magazine to the online music shop Squidco !


  Copyright © 2014 Squidco. All rights reserved. Trademarks. (2601)