I heard a track from this album on Jazz FM and it drew me in, as these artists are not usually involved in the kind of material that is more widely popular. I was interested to hear from Jazzwise magazine that John Escreet is actually a British musician who is one of that rare breed who has moved to New York and become successful in Jazz circles.
He has got some of the top US names to play on this album - like Chris Potter, who's been playing with Dave Holland and Pat Metheny amongst others. But apart from this unusual provenenance - the music is a distinctive mix of arranged parts and wildly free improvisation. There is a string quartet and additional arranged brass, all written in by Escreet.
The album opens with a piece just for strings and this then slides smoothly into a track that mixes the two - with written arrangments attracting the ear, around solos that are incredibly lively and push the music into "free" territory. Subsequent tracks take us firmly into this genre of Jazz and can at times, be hard-going for the listener, with much dissonance and high intensity playing.
But this is always brought back by the writing and the interesting arrangements - the last track : "Beyond Your Wildest Dreams" is a particular favourite in this respect, with vocals added to an expansive and beautiful tune that runs through several changing sections.
Overall the wide variety of instrumentation provides interesting colours and Escreet's own keyboards provide stand-out moments - like his classic Fender Rhodes playing. There is always enough there to provide musical interest and also a hard edge of free improv to keep fans of the avant-garde end of the Jazz spectrum happy. Well worth a listen for fans of cutting edge, modern Jazz.
on 14 December 2013
By my reckoning there are as just as many duds as winners when it comes to jazz getting mixed with string and brass sections; so I'm happy to say Escreet really nails it with some fine orchestral arrangements that further endorse his reputation as a musical force on the NYC scene. Plus he seems to have taken a big leaf out of mentor David Binney's songbook when it comes to incorporating some of the latter's catchy lines into the compositions - the results, whilst free form on occasion, making for a much more melodic and accessible album than his previous 'Exception to the rule'. With Chris Potter and cohorts on top form, this release definitely marks a high point on already exciting musical journey.