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Eskelin, Ellery with Susan Alcorn and Michael Formanek: Mirage (Clean Feed)

A mercurial and beautiful record from the trio led by tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, with pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn and bassist Michael Formaneck with a unique, introspective and lovely group sound.

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product information:

UPC: 5609063002713

Label: Clean Feed
Catalog ID: CF 271
Squidco Product Code: 17675

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2013
Country: Portugal
Packaging: Cardstock gatefold foldover
Recorded on November 9th, 2011 at the Towson University Fine Arts Center in Baltimore, Maryland by Ed Tetreault.


Ellery Eskelin-tenor saxophone

Susan Alcorn-pedal steel guitar

Michael Formanek-doublebass

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track listing:

1. Rain Shadow 5:50

2. Meridian 6:22

3. Divergence 4:28

4. Saturation 4:49

5. Absolute Zero 3:43

6. Refraction 3:28

7. Occlusion 5:17

8. Downburst 27:21

9. Mirage 5:33
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descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Listeners have come to expect the unexpected from tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, especially with respect to the musical settings in which he places himself. His long-running group with accordionist Andrea Parkins and beat-oriented drummer Jim Black may have seemed strange in it's beginnings but over time their logic became clear and the strange began to seem normal, even necessary. With his new working group "Trio New York" Eskelin delivers the unexpected even in this more traditional lineup with Hammond B-3 recycler Gary Versace and another innovator of the drum-kit, Gerald Cleaver.

With Mirage Eskelin presents us with another "unique" formula, this time combining his modern (yet impressively well informed) tenor sound with Susan Alcorn's ethereal pedal steel guitar and Michael Formanek's grounded acoustic double bass. This top-flight veteran tenor saxophonist continues to take risks and open new frontiers in jazz-based improvisation, even beyond the issue of instrumentation - for instance, his tone, phrasing and melodic conception is completely his own, even as he is keenly aware of the history and tradition associated with his instrument. The concept behind Mirage rests squarely with Eskelin as well, yet as with each of his past projects, the group sound is equally defined by the personalities of each musician. Alcorn's contribution in this new proposal is key. No country & western / jazz fusion here, but instead a clever, fresh, luminous reinvention of an instrument and its vocabulary. Bassist Formanek's contribution is equally essential, giving the music much of it's warmth and expansive reach."-Clean Feed Records

Artist Biographies:

"For the past thirty years Ellery Eskelin has been at the forefront of the global creative improvised music scene. Based in New York City, he has traveled widely performing, recording and amassing a very personal and iconoclastic body of work. And yet Ellery Eskelin has always remained deeply committed to the traditions of jazz and American music. Eskelin embodies this seeming contradiction with ease. He does not see jazz as a style or idiom but as a process. Further, a process of creative development that has great relevancy to our time. In this pursuit Eskelin consistently delivers to the listening public unadulterated, passionate music with no excuses and no apologies.

Ellery Eskelin (born 1959) was raised in Baltimore and began playing the tenor saxophone at age ten, inspired by his mother "Bobbie Lee" who played Hammond B3 organ professionally in the early sixties. In 1983 Eskelin moved to New York City and in 1987 began recording with the cooperative group Joint Venture which also began his exposure on the European international touring circuit. Soon after, Eskelin formed the first of many projects as a leader beginning with a trio comprised of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Phil Haynes followed by a short lived group featuring Joe Daley on tuba and Arto Tuncboyaciyan on bakdav drums and percussion. In 1992 Eskelin joined drummer Joey Baron's group, "Baron Down" (instrumentation of drums, trombone and saxophone), an experience that proved to be an important catalyst in his own work fostering an increased interest in new and unusual instrumentation. In 1994 Eskelin formed the group most often associated with him including accordionist Andrea Parkins and drummer Jim Black. To date he has written over 50 compositions for this group, each of which has been documented on a series of CD releases on the Swiss hatHUT record label. The band has toured regularly and performed hundreds of concerts in the US, Canada and throughout Europe during the past twenty years. Eskelin's most recent project is "Trio New York" featuring organist Gary Versace and drummer Gerald Cleaver. "Trio New York" takes a free approach to the great American songbook, bringing Eskelin full circle to his musical beginnings while addressing his varied musical journeys since then.

Along the way Eskelin has done a number of side projects including a group featuring guitarist Marc Ribot and drummer Kenny Wollesen dedicated to the music of Gene Ammons, improvisatory duos with Dutch drummer Han Bennink, an improvising ensemble consisting of strings, vibraphone and saxophone and most recently a group featuring Susan Alcorn on pedal steel guitar and bassist Michael Formanek. Over the years Eskelin has developed a number of other important associations with musicians such as Gerry Hemingway, Mark Helias, Sylvie Courvoisier, and Bobby Previte. As a side-person Eskelin has worked with a broad cross section of jazz, avant-pop and new-music figures such as organist Brother Jack McDuff, composer Mikel Rouse, guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, oud player and composer Rabih Abou-Khalil, drummer Daniel Humair and the pseudo-group "The Grassy Knoll" among many others.

Eskelin's recordings as a leader and co-leader (there are currently twenty) have been named in Best of the Year critics' polls in the New York Times, The Village Voice , and major jazz magazines in the US and abroad. He also appears on over fifty recordings as a side person. DownBeat Magazine named Eskelin as one of the 25 Rising Stars for the Future in its January 2000 issue ("...players who not only insure the music's survival but promise to take it to the next level") as well as including him in their Annual Critics Polls nearly every year since then. Eskelin was a nominee for the prestigious Danish Jazzpar award in 2003 and was the recipient of a Chamber Music America French-American Exchange grant in 2007 and in 2014 as well as a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works grant in 2009."

-Ellery Eskelin Website (

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"Susan Alcorn (born 1953) is an American composer, improvisor, and pedal steel guitarist. Having started out playing guitar at the age of twelve, she quickly immersed herself in folk music, blues, and the pop music of the 1960s. A chance encounter with blues musician Muddy Waters steered her towards playing slide guitar. By the time she was twenty-one, she had immersed herself in the pedal steel guitar, playing in country and western swing bands in Texas.

Soon, she began to combine the techniques of country-western pedal steel with her own extended techniques to form a personal style influenced by free jazz, avant-garde classical music, Indian ragas, Indigenous traditions, and various folk musics of the world. By the early 1990s her music began to show an influence of the holistic and feminist "deep listening" philosophies of Pauline Oliveros.

Though mostly a solo performer, Alcorn has collaborated with numerous artists including Pauline Oliveros, Eugene Chadbourne, Peter Kowald, Chris Cutler, Joe Giardullo, Caroline Kraabel, Earl Howard, Le Quan Ninh, Sean Meehan, Joe McPhee, LaDonna Smith, Mike Cooper, Walter Daniels, Ellen Fullman, Jandek, George Burt, Janel Leppin, Michael Formanek, Ellery Eskelin, Fred Frith, Maggie Nicols, Evan Parker, Johanna Varner, Zane Campbell and Mary Halvorson."

-Wikipedia (

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"One marker of bassist Michael Formanek's creativity and versatility is the range of distinguished musicians of several generations he's worked with. While still a teenager in the 1970s he toured with drummer Tony Williams and saxophonist Joe Henderson; starting in the '80s he played long stints with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch and Freddie Hubbard. (As a callback to those days, Formanek recorded with hardbop pianist Freddie Redd in 2013). The bassist has played a pivotal role on New York's creative jazz scene going back to the '90s when he notably led his own quintet and played in Tim Berne's barnstorming quartet Bloodcount. Nowadays Formanek's in the co-op Thumbscrew with Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.

Formanek is also a composer and leader of various bands. His principal recording and international touring vehicle is his acclaimed quartet with Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums, which records for ECM; 2010's The Rub and Spare Change and 2012's Small Places both earned coveted five-star raves in Down Beat. Formanek writes, and the quartet plays, compositions of great rhythmic sophistication that unfold in a natural sounding way - challenging music the players make sound like lyrical free expression. His occasional groups include the 18-piece all-star Ensemble Kolossus, roping in many New York improvisers he works with. Ensemble Kolossus recorded their first CD of all Formanek originals for the prestigious ECM label in December of 2014. The CD, The Distance was released in February 2016 and in addition to numerous other accolades also received a five-star review in Downbeat!

Formanek's other recordings as leader include Wide Open Spaces and Extended Animation for quintet and Low Profile and Nature of the Beast for seven players (all on Enja), and the solo album Am I Bothering You? (Screwgun). Mirage (Clean Feed) is by the occasional improvising trio of Formanek, tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn. Thumbscrew's 2014 debut is on Cuneiform Records. Michael Formanek has also made dozens of recordings as sideman, for among others Dave Ballou, Tim Berne, Jane Ira Bloom, Dave Burrell, Harold Danko, Marty Ehrlich, Tomas Fujiwara, Gary Thomas and Jack Walrath.

As composer of works for ensembles from duo to mixed jazz and classical orchestra, Michael Formanek has received institutional support from Chamber Music America, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Peabody Conservatory, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. As an educator, Formanek teaches bass and other jazz courses, and leads the Jazz Ensemble at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory."

-Michael Formanek Website (

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