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Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black: Arcanum Moderne

It would be premature to bring out Modern Jazz Quartet comparisons now, but nearly 10 years gone and Ellery Eskelin’s trio is still together. Judging by the music on Arcanum Moderne, they aren’t due for creative burnout any time soon.

This group, however, is still all about Eskelin’s sax, which is at the center of every tune. Sampler/keyboardist Andrea Parkins and drummer Jim Black are out to fashion contexts for Eskelin’s long, wending lines. In that capacity, they take the music in some unexpected places. Parkins’ sampler sounds like Grizzly Bear snorting on “43 RPM.” Black, on the same tune, plays as if he’s tuned in to some distant and mutated cousin of a modern dance beat.

For a good deal of the freeish ballad “Five Walls,” Black barely registers while Parkins offers only scattered notes on the piano. “For No Good Reason” delivers nearly seven minutes of disjointed collective improv before Parkins and Black switch abruptly and perversely into a pop-chord progression that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Radiohead or Coldplay recording. And through it all is Eskelin, whose multifaceted music-abstruse and frosty one minute, full-bore passionate the next-sounds like something that could only exist at the edge of sleep. He deserves more attention than he gets.

Originally Published