Since his 2008 debut, “Consequences” (Posi-tone), the first-rate British pianist, John Escreet, has spent time touring in Europe and performing throughout his new home base of New York City, honing his compositional chops and intrepid style of modern jazz. His tumbling notes and percussive attack recalls the spirited energy of the late pianist Don Pullen and at 25, he’s already an astute bandleader to an indispensible group of A+ musicians well versed in Escreet’s brand of improvisation.
For his sophomore release, “Don’t Fight The Inevitable,” the pianist continues to see the possibilities in big ideas. Escreet cannily puzzles together kaleidoscopic passages where the front line horns combust with sophisticated harmonics and each musician performs with amazing facility. “Civilization On Trial” builds on a dramatic four note theme (punctuated with black and white horror film cues) that evolves to shift time and tempo, its melody mutating into strands pulled apart by saxophonist David Binney and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, until the always-in-control Escreet guides his musicians to ground.
On the title track and “Magic Chemical (For The Future)” Escreet uses free jazz, straight-ahead swing and a bit of alt-pop that fuel off-kilter rhythms for maximum tension and release. He collaborates with Binny on a synthesized “Soundscape” blending post-modern classical motifs with sci-fi tremolos, and “Charlie In The Parker” features a clever use of looped vocal samples of the great man himself.
Escreet’s work has many moving parts (vividly captured by ace engineer Mike Marciano) and the band is clearly game. The nimble bassist Matt Brewer serves as a grounding energy for the pianist’s rollicking solos as does another star in Escreet’s orbit, Nasheet Waits, a seasoned, polyrhythmic drummer with a keen sense of flow. Binney gets extra credit for his haunting use of electronic sampling and tonal dissonance, used most effectively on “Avaricious World,” the closer that’s constructed of intervallic jazz vamps and cinematic themes. Near the tune’s end, over waves of ethereal sound, Akinmusire issues plaintive trumpet cries. A halting bass line weaves in and out until Escreet steps in like a satisfied observer, playing flickering keynotes that wane and float out into the electrified void. (8 tracks; 60:58 minutes)
I spoke with John in a phone interview and was impressed by his passion about music. He told me he began playing the piano at 4 and was the only musical member of his family. He switched briefly to saxophone after gravitating to jazz from classical studies in school but soon returned to the piano as his primary instrument. He moved to New York to get his masters degree at the Manhattan School Of Music where he studied with pianists Kenny Barron and Jason Moran. Interestingly, the new album was workshopped while touring last winter with the band. As you can hear, John composes the band (although I wish John would have allowed more solo space for himself) and as I mentioned in my review, the fidelity of the recording is really good. Finally, it’s rare that a CD is recorded and released in a matter of months. Unlike other releases, jazz and otherwise, there’s often a year or more of mixing, mastering and messing around before an album hits – so this is what John Escreet sounds like right now and I hope this is a pattern he’ll continue to follow. Go to his excellent website – it provide much more info. www.johnescreet.com
Labels: Ambrose Akinmusire, David Binney, John Escreet, Matt Brewer, Mike Marcino, Mythology Records, Nasheet Waits