Jun 5 2014
There is an awe-inspiring quality to watching a sheet of glass come crashing to the floor. There is the sense of anticipation as it hangs briefly in the air, just moments before contact. The huge sonic dissonance of one object becoming a thousand is no less affecting than the way the crash fades out with the gentle chiming of shards scattering everywhere. Light is reflected like a sky of stars off each broken piece, each catching the eye in its own way, each a reminder of the danger present in their sharp edges. And then, finally, the concluding silence, no less riveting as the noise that preceded it. That is Sound, Space, and Structures, the new release by pianist John Escreet. A nine-part suite of avant-garde turmoil and transition, each piece reflects off the other, even as the album’s perspective becomes increasingly expansive.
Your album personnel: John Escreet (piano), Evan Parker (tenor & soprano saxes), Tyshawn Sorey (drums), and John Hebert (bass).
The delivery of each musician ranges from proactive to aggressive. Nobody sits back and coasts on this recording.
“Part II” has Evan Parker fluttering about on soprano saxophone, a particular voicing whose appeal never fades. The patterns are mirrored by Escreet’s piano on “Part III,” with Parker’s sax becoming more furtive as the two give the impression of circling one another in an unending cycle. This is the type of motion that runs throughout this album.
Tyshawn Sorey maintains unsettling tempos that keep the ear expectant and unsure. The sense of teeth chattering on “Part VII” provide some tension on a song that goes vertical, each of the other three quartet members defining vertical in their own particular way. But on “Part VIII,” Sorey is the lone boat out on the water, the hollow echoes of the percussion beats providing no more comfort than the unnerving spacing between them.
John Hebert is an ominous undercurrent, except when he rises to the surface with some bass arco, as he does on “Part VI.” At the opposite pole, “Part II” sees him making introductions with a succinct prose, then sliding beneath the surface of Parker’s sax, a dark shading to bright saxophone lines.
And Escreet, he finds a way to develop an introspective ambiance even as everything comes crashing down about him. “Part V” sees an abbreviated hush fall over the album with Escreet and Parker trading short volleys of notes. But then on tracks like “Part III,” “Part VII” and “Part X,” there are passages where Escreet’s piano practically glitters with a surreal beauty in a sea of discordance, force and collision.
This is not pretty music. It challenges the ear, even takes a swipe at it from time to time. But, ultimately, it possesses those awe-inspiring traits of the curious beauty that lies within a destructive force.
Released on Sunnyside Records.
Jazz from NYC.