The Blue People
All About Jazz
By Jakob Baekgaard
Blue is the color of the blues. It's the mood of sadness and tranquility. It's the freedom and infinity of the ocean and the open sky. It's the rhythm and roots of jazz. The future and the past coalesced into a moment of improvisation.
Pianist John Esposito's The Blue People seems to unite all the aspects of the color blue. The music on the album has the sweep of history while still being able to sound totally fresh. It's pure, challenging jazz music, which ought to have a broad appeal to those who have grown tired of straight standards and worn-out clichés, but who still want music within a recognizable historical frame.
Nevertheless, Esposito is a well-kept secret to the initiated few who speak of his music in glowing terms. To those in the know, his Sunjump label has become a reliable source for music that connects the threads of past and present with both new and historical recordings being published.
The Blue People is one of the label's most important releases in that it presents all original material from Esposito, where diverse influences—ranging from African music, modern composition and classical baroque to swing, bop and avant-garde—melt together into a forceful, coherent expression.
The lightning fast notes of the opening "Boppin'" bring to mind Charlie Parker's sophisticated train of thought, as Esposito's hands moves swiftly across the keys without losing track of the music's emotional content. Humor is also present on the funnily titled "Just Fiends," which plays on the standard "Just Friends." The musical content, however, is anything but standard, with a rhythmically complex exotic groove anchored by bassist Kenny Davis.
Contrapuntal technique is used on the title track, with saxophonist Eric Person and trumpeter Greg Glassman weaving lines in and out in a fiery tribal dance.
"Joan" is a shimmering ballad with crystallized accompaniment from Esposito and spine-tingling blowing from Person, while "Fast Ride" is exactly what the title implies: a fast, unconventional blues on which the rhythm section of Davis and drummer Pete O'Brien get the chance to flex their muscles.
Whether playing breakneck-tempo blues or slowed-down ballads, Esposito's compositions maintain an originality which rises out of both intellectual and emotional knowledge of jazz and its history. It's blue music played inside out.
John Esposito at All About Jazz.
Visit John Esposito on the web.
Track listing: Boppin'; Just Fiends; Late November; Flex; The Blue People; Joan; Musashi; Rhyme; Fast Ride.
Personnel: John Esposito: piano; Greg Glassman: trumpet; Eric Person: saxophone; Kenny Davis: bass; Pete O'Brien: drums.
Style: Modern Jazz
Published: August 01, 2009
The Blue People (SunJump Records, 2006)
By DJ Wavy Davy, March 29, 2007
One beautiful thing about ensemble jazz recording is that the musicians truly have to play in the same room at the same time. Such kinship shines through on John Esposito’s latest quintet release, The Blue People, on which the pianist is joined by a well-seasoned cast: Eric Person on saxophone, Greg Glassman on trumpet, Kenny Davis on bass, and Pete O’Brien on drums.
These nine tracks, all Esposito originals, play like a history of jazz, recalling the brilliance of some of the genre’s greatest groups. The opener, “Boppin’,” swings with the creative lean of Gerry Mulligan’s best work, while the off-meter (7/4? 6/2?) “Just Friends” recalls the many moods of Mingus. Esposito pays tribute to Duke Ellington on “Late November,” as his melodic fills flourish under Person’s soaring lead on the melody. Glassman’s tone has matured greatly in the last five years, and here he hits many far-reaching notes and ideas. The airtight rhythm section of Davis and O’Brien is only put to the test when Esposito’s lightning-fast runs threaten to get ahead of them.
Esposito, who also teaches jazz classes at Bard College, has played alongside some the area’s best jazzmen, including Dave Holland, Ira Coleman, Hugh Brodie, Roswell Rudd, and Jeff Siegel, who drummed in Second Sight, an Esposito quintet formed in 1985.
- DJ Wavy Davy
Artist: John Esposito
Release Date: Jan 1, 2006
Label: SunJump Music
John Esposito is an exciting mainstream progressive jazz piano player. He’s always offering lucid, forward thinking, rhythmically propelling ideas, and displays the right mix of moxy and taste. For this effort he delves into the modern hard-to-post bop arena, with no small flourishes of the music Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, John Coltrane and Art Blakey propagated in the ‘60’s. But Esposito has updated those styles with a complex set of charts, all of his own doing, that require close listening tools. Pay full attention to hear the street smarts and imagination Esposito utilizes to make all of this music come alive. Rising star trumpeter Greg Glassman and veteran alto saxophonist Eric Person deserve much credit in taking Esposito’s charts, running with them, and adding their own personal flair, distinctive tones and textures. This is not easy music, but not so diffuse as to avoid a melodic center or ignore the raucous nature of rambling, gambling music.
The CD is book ended by hard swingers; the opener “Boppin’” has a melody that sounds like it is played backwards, goofy and a little off kilter, while “Fast Ride” is a more straight and true, but retains an edge that recalls the more challenging material that Hubbard or Sam Rivers might have contributed to the Blue Note label. “Flex” is another post-bop but angular swinger with great solos from the horns. A churning modal 11/8 rhythm suggests both Asian and African influences during the excellent “Musashi,” while Arabic or Native American elements and Person’s soprano sax informs the snake charmer styled title track, with the dark serpentine ostinato bass of Kenny Davis setting the tone before switching to escapist samba.
The deviously conceived “Just Fiends,” clearly a mutation of “Just Friends” has a chopped-up Glassman and Person agreeing and disagreeing vigorously/ Two ballads “Late November” and “Joan” are emotional opposites, the former a shadowy waltz for impending winter, that latter a post-romantic free discourse from rhythm or bar lines, featuring the poignant and sullen alto sax of Person.
Esposito’s individual piano playing itself needs repeat audio observation to realize its uniqueness, but this is more his composer’s forum. He succeeds on many real and important levels in creating some of the finest new modern jazz you may hear in the post-Whyton Marsals era.
-Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide
– August 2007 by Stuart Kremsky
John Esposito, The Blue People, SunJump
Boppin’ / Just Fiends / Late November / Flex / The Blue People / Joan / Musashi / Rhyme / Fast Ride
Esposito, p; Greg Glassman, tpt; Eric Person, sax; Kenny Davis, b; Peter O’Brien, d. 11/9/03, Catskill, NY
Released Simultaneously with the trio album, The Blue People ups the format to the traditional quintet with trumpeter Greg Glassman and saxophonist Eric Person. Peter O’Brien returns on drums with bassist Kenny Davis rounding out the band. From the opening Boppin’, the feeling is good and strong as the rhythm section, at a ferocious tempo, sets up the horns for the head, followed by brief introductory solos. Everyone gets a spot before the nearly nine minutes are gone, with almost no letdown in intensity or rhythmic thrust. The first thing I noticed was how O’Brien adapts to the larger ensemble by expanding his dynamics and using more of his kit to respond to the varying stimuli. O’Brien’s drumming makes things happen, usually without drawing much attention to himself. That’s a huge plus for any project he’s in.
Esposito’s sparkling piano weaves imaginatively through the bass and drums when he’s soloing and if you listen throughout the CD just to him, he does the same thing as accompanist, simultaneously stimulating and reacting to the soloist. His solo spots tend to be short and to the point, leaving plenty of room for everyone else.
Trumpeter Greg Glassman seems to change from tune to tune like a musical chameleon. His playing is mostly staccato on Boppin’, with a broken and vulnerable approach to his solo. Just Fiends (wonder where these chords came from) finds him in a conversational mode, sparring with Eric Person, sticking mostly to the middle range of his horn on his solo with a few dramatic bursts into the upper realms. I particularly liked his confidently fluid solo turn on Late November. Eric Person has a fat and robust sound on tenor, with a deep cry at the heart and a slightly laid back relation to the beat. A logical soloist and a skillful blender, he’s got a searching sound that’s one part Coltrane, one part Joe Henderson, a bit of Dex and Lockjaw and lots of himself.
While there’s technique to spare in this group, it’s always about the music and not the individuals. Think of it as the egoless, ecstatic approach to small group Jazz. The Blue People, with great and depth of feeling and boundless energy, is an excellent date, very nicely recorded, and a fine complement to the trio session.