Jan 19, 2011 - Vern
It looks like tradition is running wild at JazzWrap this week.
New York native, John Esposito has been on the scene for over three decades. He has worked with a variety of jazz artists including Dave Douglas, Ryan Kisor, Dave Holland and Sam Rivers among others. He has a style that is relaxed but also complexed. There is a beautiful side to his compositions that reminds me of the craftier moments of Bill Charlap or Blue Note era Herbie Hancock.
He has played in a variety of contexts but the two albums that have always drawn my attention are his trio dates. The latest, Orisha (Sun Jump Records) is a wonderful collection of originals (unlike the previous release Down Blue Marlin Road, which heavily featured standards and originals) that are joyous and jumpin'.
While Esposito is the leader on this date, this is definitely a group affair. On "Myanmar" the trio move through uptempo and midtempo without hesitation. It's a lovely introspective listen that is emotional effective.
"Fly" written and performed by drummer, Peter O'Brien, while short is nicely and fiercely delivered and moves quickly into "Stygian Bright", a multi-patterned piece with some nice chordal changes by Esposito. "Personal Blues" while based on a blues structure doesn't move in a blues fashion. This is a fast paced number that delivers a night club feel that you are bound to find intoxicating.
Orisha is a stellar collection of high spirited originals performed by a trio that while not playing regularly, demonstrates years of experience of which they all hold, rolled up into just over an hour of marvelous listening.
By Jakob Baekgaard - 10/3/10
No matter the musical constellations he has worked in, deconstruction and reimagining of the jazz tradition has always been a crucial part of the art of pianist John Esposito. This is especially true when considering his take on the piano trio, one of the most tried and true formats in jazz.
Back in 2006, Esposito released Down Blue Marlin Road on his own Sunjump label. It was a record that showcased his encyclopedic knowledge of tradition, from swing and hard bop to avant-garde. Together with his cohorts, bassist Ira Coleman and drummer Peter O'Brien, Esposito reinvented standards like "Body and Soul" and "Autumn Leaves," tearing them apart and putting them back into strange pieces of fluorescent beauty.
Orisha is a more than welcome return for Esposito's trio, but this time around focuses almost exclusively on the leader's original compositions, with Coleman and O'Brien adding one composition each. While Esposito provides the basis for the group's musical interaction, the final result is, as Esposito emphasizes in the liner notes, the product of a joint effort: "I consider their playing on everything we do so compositional that the pieces I present them with become as much their compositions as mine."
The album is book-ended by the title track, which is a superior example of modernistic swing, Esposito making melodic fills shimmer in the midst of a sweeping hurricane of rhythm, where Coleman's walking bass is the steady foundation.
"Dreams," on the other hand, slows things a bit down, with a thoughtful piano introduction that mixes rollicking stride piano with ethereal impressionism, giving the feeling of Fats Waller covering Claude Debussy. However, when the rest of the trio enters, it's a whole other ballgame, and the music gradually heats up, with O'Brien providing a feisty, funky pulse, over which Esposito makes his harmonic curve-balls.
Esposito is a strong, if unconventional, melody-maker, as a sparkling tune like "Serenity" clearly shows, but despite its melodic accessibility, Orisha isn't easy listening. Its restless energy refuses to reside into the background and the dramatic ebb and flow of the music speaks of three artists for whom art is created in the here-and-now.
There are always two sides to the coin in the case of John Esposito: Tranquility is closely linked to chaos. It's this Eastern philosophy of yin and yang that is translated beautifully into a work of art that is as progressive as it is nostalgic and as aggressive as it is tender. It has been four years since the last Esposito trio record. Suffice it to say that it has been worth the wait.