Jan 26 2012
I discovered Ellipsis and Edge Hill Road about a year ago while wandering the halls at the Bandcamp site, just looking for anything interesting to hear. I was hooked almost immediately, and now a year (or so) later, the album never shook me, so I figure this is a nice opportunity to give it a little more time in the spotlight. Edge Hill Road is exactly the type of album I envisioned writing about when I came up with the regular feature of The Safety Net.
Released originally back in 2009 by a quintet of jazzers from the Philly scene who wanted to express their voice through jazz with a different kind of sound. Looking over their site, it’s obvious they have a strong affinity for Indie Rock music (ie Radiohead), and Edge Hill Road certainly has some of the sonic aspects of that corner of the music world.
Your album personnel: Jon Thompson (tenor sax), Matt Davis (guitar), John Stenger (piano), Jason Fraticelli (bass), and Justin Leigh (drums).
The album opens with “Thoughts of You”, a meditative piece, with piano and bass opening with a simple three note repetition that sets a tone of solemn contemplation. Tenor and guitar join in soon after, mimicking that three note progression and building on it, further entrenching the melancholia that stays through the entire tune.
It’s risky to open with a “sad song”, but it can be done; keep the melody simple and sincere, and don’t lay the desolation on too thick. For my personal tastes, Ellipsis pulls it off.
Another track I really like is “Dear Brian”. It begins with the sweetest opening notes on sax, accompanied softly with piano, and it just sounds like pulling the curtains aside to see the sun shining over a snowy landscape that wasn’t there the night before. Halfway through, the song changes, and now we’re happily walking outside in the snow, the cool air frosting breath and sweat from the exertion of trudging through foot deep drifts. This song exemplifies the quality that I believe I most enjoy about this album (and ones like it)… it makes me break into daydreams, conjures up all this anecdotal imagery, of what has come before or what may yet be.
“Sweet Victory” starts up tempo right away, with guitar taking the lead and setting the pace. Sax follows close behind at first, wailing away, then takes the lead itself. And while sax doesn’t relinquish the front position, everyone’s voice gets heard, and it sounds like a bunch of solos tightly intertwined around one another. It’s a nice bit of fire to an album that’s more inclined to smolder.
“Smoke and Mirrors” is a nifty little bit of tension. Bass and drums absolutely carry this tune with this evocative rhythm like a hero’s heartbeat leading up the Big Fight; there’s a suddenness and an undercurrent of volatility to it that is just too cool. Piano whips around in the background, adding to that tension. Sax and guitar, while most noticeable of all the instruments, really act more as supporting characters, much to the benefit of the tune.
“Why Can’t I Stay Away” is pure heartbreak.
The entire album has a wonderful cohesion to it, makes the artists’ vision very accessible. Obviously, there’s no way to truly know what the artist(s) intends or thinks about the finished product, but cohesiveness in an album at least gives the listener a decent shot at a best guess. Besides, even if that best guess is miles away from reality, ultimately, as listeners, what really matters is what we take away from it, the vision that it inspires in us and our connection between ourselves and the music we hear.
Well, anyways, that’s all I got for today. I hope you enjoy the album.
The album is Self-Produced. Jazz from the Philadelphia scene.
Download a free track from AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artists.