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Broadbent/Alex Cline/Nels Cline/Peter Erskine/Alan Pasqua: The Music of Eric von Essen: Volume 1

Eric von Essen was a multi-faceted musician best known for his work as a bassist in the LA area in the ’80s and ’90s. After his premature demise, a group of people who had known him decided to record three volumes devoted to his works. Everyone involved obviously has the deepest respect for von Essen, and some consider him a genius, though I don’t hear evidence of that quality. The best tunes, like the opening “Silvana,” the dedication to Golson, “Benny,” and the jangly “Peacemaker” are indications of a very bright and agile musicality, but a mature, fully-realized compositional style wasn’t yet there. I should also admit that post-Lydian theory, Metheny-like writing doesn’t say much to me. Readers in sympathy with that style shouldn’t hesitate to check out this CD, especially as the level of interpretation is very high throughout. There are five different line-ups, from a couple of piano trios to a quintet with guitar and trumpet, to a quasi-Latin quartet featuring acoustic guitar and violin. The soloists are interesting and sometimes arresting, and the level of group interaction is consistently engrossing.

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