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Into the fringes of tonality

John Escreet - Consequences

3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 20, 2008
John Escreet

Review by Brad Walseth

Upon my first listen to young British pianist's Consequences, I admit that I found the music to be of a strident nature and frankly quite obtuse. But I figured that any recording recommended by Jason Moran and featuring such fine players as alto saxophonist David Binney, bassist Matt Brewer, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and drummer Tyshawn Sorey would be worth a second listen, and I am glad I made this decision, because although the music is at times further "out there" than I generally care to go, the intelligence and power of the compositions, combined with the stellar interaction of he players, results in an intriguing and rewarding listen.

Escreet's compositions are examples of challenging modern avant garde with moments of intensity and beauty contained within, while his playing combines odd shifts and unusual tangents often culminating in pounded keys of tone clusters. The three-part "The Suite of Consequences" opens things up in a flurry of changing moods and shifting directions. Akinimusire adds a wonderful trumpet solo, Escreet skitters across the keys, Sorey adds what sounds to be tympani while Binney paints delicious touches with some choice applied electronics. Part Two opens with Brewer on bowed bass leading into a breathy Binney solo that relentlessly increases in power over a weighty theme. Another great solo showcase for the always fascinating player. More masterful electronics, angular piano and propulsive drumming leads into Part Three, where the band leaps into avant bop that unexpectedly deconstructs into chaos, which in turn resolves into unaccompanied African-influenced melodic counterpoint between the horn players before the band kicks back in before the piano leads the way back into a bop outro. Clearly the composer is a man of catholic tastes, and this is exciting music meant to shake the listener's sensibilities.

The wonderful composition, "Wayne's World" follows and is perhaps my favorite number on the release. Reverently referencing Wayne Shorter's compositional style, but in Escreet's own manner, it again features Binney on another exceptional solo (truly my favorite alto player working today). Akinimusire adds a tasty solo over Sorey's expressive drumming and Escreet's piano support (that surprisingly is both romantic and angular at the same time). "Dilemma" is a sultry number with Escreet sparkling on Fender Rhodes. Brewer solos nicely on this more conventional Latin-flavored piece, as does Akinimusire, and props should be given to Sorey for his excellent work on the skins.

Things return to the strange and mysterious on "Somewhere Between Dreaming and Sleeping" which floats into ECM territory with electronic atmospherics, layers of piano barrages that at times hint strongly at Escreet's classical training and produce an interesting and somewhat unnerving listening experience. Showing another of his influences, Escreet chooses to end his debut with a lovely solo rendering of Andrew Hill's "No Doubt." Consequences forays into the fringes of tonality won't be for everyone's liking, but it is a compelling first release from a young pianist, and one that will provide a sonic thrill ride for those so inclined to hop onboard.

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