Although those three musicians have been working together since the ’80s, when they all lived in the New York area (Marx relocated to Chicago in the ’90s), it is the first time they have recorded as a bona fide trio. As an aside, saxophonist Jeff Marx, drummer Jeff Siegel, and pianist John Esposito belonged to a group called Second Sight (their only outing Flying With The Comet was reissued last year by the same label) which included a budding Dave Douglas.
On this date, more of less abstract melodic motifs serve as launchpads for improvisations and group interplay. In a few cases, pieces take the form of tone poems. The music keeps moving forward and avoid being repetitious. One of the reasons is the absence of a bass player, which forces each of the musicians to fulfill a rhythmic role at one point or another, or to concoct heavy rhythmic lines (“Thirteen Steaks/One Salmon”). The general mood is lyrical and reflective, but is not totally devoid of humor, playfulness, and recklessness.
The trio looks forward while keeping an eye in the rearview mirror and acknowledging the past as evidenced in the hilarious “The Chuckster” penned by Marx. In fact, the program is aptly sequenced; rather mournful and contemplative pieces alternate with compositions that provide more rhythmic bite. On Esposito’s “Fludoh I,” over a steady beat sustained by Siegel, the pianist seems to challenge the saxophonist to come out of its initial torpor and enter a cutting contest.
Ultimately, it is this constant and stimulating dialogue between Esposito and Marx (to which Siegel is not a spectator, but rather an instigator or a fire builder) that makes Inyo stand out and worth investigating. — Alain Drouot
Experiment with form lies at the heart of everything pianist John Esposito plays or composes. Whether he's exploring and redefining the language of the standard with his trio or writing for a large ensemble as on A Book of Five Rings (Sunjump, 2008), he has the ability to immerse himself completely in the form that's explored. This is also the case with Inyo, which is a collaboration with saxophonist Jeff Marx and drummer Jeff Siegel—both of whom played with Esposito in the group Second Sight.
Inyo takes its title from the Japanese and refers to the male and female principles that are known in Eastern philosophy as Yin and Yang. It's a very fitting title because if there's something that the album does, it is to unite unlikely opposites. Thus, the sound on the album could best be described as unquiet meditations or chaotic lyricism.
The key to understanding the challenging textures of Inyo, coming across as both melodically inviting and intellectually difficult, lies in the combination of instruments. The lack of a bass gives a decidedly more free feeling, with Esposito alternating between playing the bass patterns on the keys and painting abstract blocks of chords. However, the musical initiative changes all the time among the participants.
"Crescent Sound" starts off with Siegel entering the eye of the hurricane with a large battery of percussion sounds before saxophonist Jeff Marx takes some bold flights on the saxophone, as Esposito moves to the background.
"Chuckster" is humorous march, merging sly saxophone and semi-ragtime musings, while "Upward Decent," whose title itself is a paradox, combines a funky beat with Esposito's impromptu piano voicings.
"Horizon" ends the album, however, on a thoughtful note, with Marx's curling, windy lines and the soft tones of the piano falling like drops of rain from a tree. This is, to stay in the Eastern terminology, a true moment of musical Zen created by three masterful musicians.
JEFF MARX/JOHN SIEGEL/JOHN ESPOSITO - Inyo (Sunjump CD 08; USA) Featuring John Esposito on piano, Jeff Marx on tenor sax and Jeff Seigel on drums. Since starting the Sunjump label in 2006, John Esposito has released seven great discs of different bands or projects that he is involved with. Each of the previous ones that I've reviewed have been great, showing John to be an amazing pianist, bandleader and composer. So I was excited to get this one in the mail the other day (9/29/09). I hadn't heard of Jeff Marx before this but I did know of Jeff Seigel from his work with another fine pianist, Michael Jefry Stevens.
"Premonition" is a splendid, calm opener with the piano and the tenor dueting with the drums in a spirited, slow-burning but spacious frenzy. "13 Steaks/One Salmon" has a sort of funky groove with some hot tenor on top. Although this is a trio with no bassist, the superb sound and strong focused playing make this a most compelling offering. On "A Note to Myself" the trio wanders carefully through somber space with haunting results. "Fudoh I" features some strong two handed piano from John at the center with the tenor & drums tightly swirling around the piano.
What I dig about this is the way all three players interact and give each other some space to deal with at the same time. The music breathes and feels natural with some brilliant moments that consistently emerge. John's superb orchestral piano is featured on "Crescent Sound" as is an excellent solo from Seigel's drums. The endless inventiveness of this trio is most impressive and this disc remains a jewel in more ways than one. The title track is the most exquisite of the bunch and it made me feel good when those darker thoughts began to appear. Thanks for that. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery