Recommended: Ethan Helm – “The Spoon”


Ethan Helm - "The Spoon"The Spoon is kind of all over the place.  It’s a quality that lends the album its charm, and the main ingredient in what makes it so compelling.  There’s also a logic to it all.  The recording came about as the endcap for saxophonist Ethan Helm in pursuit of his graduate degree, and one of the goals was to encapsulate the diverse influences of his teachers and mentors and collaborators from this period.  The process of learning and development and creative expansion and definition never truly end, but it’s not difficult to imagine that this was a time for Helm to be especially audacious in branching out and experimenting and checking out the lay of the land and his position upon it.

So there’s tracks like “Proteins” and “Folk Noise” that offer flurries of free improv fierceness, and there’s tracks like “3” and “010414 3 #2” that add heavy infusions of indie-rock melodicism, and there’s tracks like “C’mon” and the two-part “Spoon” that situate themselves far closer to modern jazz’s center, and there’s “Goodness Owl” which flirts with a Nordic Jazz impressionism, and then there’s tracks like “Exposure” and “Wifi Glen” that just sort of do their own thing.

But despite its sprawling landscape obliterating any whiff of cohesion, there is an appealing flow from one track to the other, which indicates a special attention paid to marrying one song’s ‘goodbye’ with the next song’s ‘hello.”  And though the range of expressions is wide and varied, there’s a hint of patterns with how they’re rolled out in bundles of threes and fours, so that the changes in tempos and tones and influence radiate a certain expectancy not unlike the motion of the ocean’s tides.

It’s a curious album, and it’s pretty easy to get hooked on it hard.

Your album personnel: Ethan Helm (saxophones), Noah Berman (guitar), Adam Kromelow (piano) and Nathan Ellman-Bell (drums).

This Self-Produced album is released under Family Cow Recordings.

Listen to more of the album at the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Jazz from NYC.

Available at:  Bandcamp | Amazon | CDBaby