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Various Artists: The Music of Eric von Essen Volume II

Bassist/composer Essen was a somewhat obscure but respected L.A.-based musician who passed away in 1997 at the age of 43. This tribute features his compositions performed by members of his group Quartet Music (guitarist Nels Cline, drummer Alex Cline and violinist Jeff Gauthier), as well as pianist Alan Broadbent, drummer Peter Erskine and trumpeter Stacy Rowles (Jimmy’s daughter).

Young, prolific and with a great deal of experience working with a host of well-known musicians (Mose Allison, Warne Marsh, Tootie Heath, Bud Shank, Kenny Kirkland, to name a few), von Essen created music that was not only broad in scope, but also very personal in certain respects. His sensitivity is especially revealed by the ballads “Seule” and “Show Tune,” each of which is beautifully interpreted by pianists Alan Pasqua and Broadbent, respectively. In contrast, there’s the swinging, straightahead “Bud For John” (with a hip solo by guitarist Larry Koonse) and “9/8/29” (with members of Quartet Music), which begins spaciously and eventually evolves into an acoustic frolic led by guitarist Cline.

While there’s nothing particularly profound here, the performances clearly show von Essen to be an inventive composer with a knack for melody and the ability to achieve an overall effect.

Originally Published