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Ellery Eskelin: Forms

Forms is a rerelease of Ellery Eskelin’s 1990 recording of the same name on the Open Minds label. It features the tenor saxophonist’s late-’80s trio with drummer Phil Haynes and bassist Drew Gress. The album is made up of plainly titled originals (along with a pair of jazz classics-Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine” and Gillespie’s “Bebop”), obviously meant to show-off Eskelin’s considerable range to best advantage. “Blues” isn’t a blues, but it’s got a strong blues feel, using a “Killer Joe”-type riff to set up a hard-swinging solo section. “In Three” is a harmonically amorphous waltz-time tune, “Ballad” is, well, a ballad. You get the idea.

A notable aspect of Eskelin’s work is the way he balances frenzy and control; while you never get the feeling he’s holding back, his most emotionally intense moments are typically as cogent as his theme statements-faster and more complex, perhaps, but just as clearly spoken. Gress and Haynes form a dynamite rhythm section, equally adept at swinging and tearing down the house.

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