Texture is all on Joy Luck, a fine recording that introduces the versatile Vardan Ovsepian on keyboards and arrangements. Buttressed by Erskine’s nephew Damian on bass, this set sparkles, shimmers, provokes and delights.
Each of the 11 tracks tells a story or at least implies one. Take the brooding “Dr. Kildare,” a Jerry Goldsmith tune that unfolds in stately fashion with Ovsepian at his most magisterial and Erskine at his bluesiest: Ovsepian weaves a mutable improvisation as Erskine fills, then drops back, and then takes over. Simultaneously relaxing and stimulating, this is music as conversation.
While Erskine originals dominate, the choice of covers is judicious. Vince Mendoza’s “Esperança” gets a jaunty, martial treatment sparked by Ovsepian’s insidious synth and Erskine’s rimshots. Erskine plays resonant, sultry marimba on Bob James’ aptly titled “Iridescence,” and his brushwork, in sync with Ovsepian’s sturdy, dappled piano, brings fresh gravity to Frank Loesser’s “I’ve Never Been in Love Before.” Ovsepian’s “Every Tomorrow,” highlighted by Damian Erskine’s plummy bass, is a stunning showcase for a prodigious technique and a faintly mathematical harmonic sensibility. Ovsepian is one to watch, as is the younger Erskine, whose bittersweet “Song for Zoey” caps this subtle, thoughtful disc.