ESG performs original vocal and instrumental jazz. Their music is a unique blend of contemporary jazz, sophisticated pop, and Brazilian flavors.
At its core, The Eric Starr Group (ESG) is a collaboration between brothers, Eric and Nelson Starr. Third generation musicians from Western New York, the Starr brothers have performed together professionally since childhood. In 2003, the pair formed ESG as a showcase for Eric’s adventurous jazz compositions and for Nelson’s arresting tenor vocals.
Eric and Nelson Starr are both multi-talented artists. Eric grew up as a wunderkind on drums, but quickly proved himself as a skilled percussionist, pianist and composer. Nelson is also a triple threat; he is an accomplished pianist, guitar player and vocalist. Moreover, he is a gifted mix engineer whose talented ear provided ESG’s new album with its gorgeous, full sound.
As the leader of ESG, Eric is featured as both a stable rhythm player and versatile soloist, while always maintaining the position of sole composer-in-residence. In addition to his work with ESG, Eric has been commissioned to write works for classical piano and chamber ensembles. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including three Meet the Composer grants and he is currently finishing work on a four movement orchestral suite.
As a drummer, Eric’s playing draws from both jazz and rock stylists. “I’ve always been interested in genre bending. I am not a purist of any kind,” revealed Eric. As such, you may hear hints of such disparate players as Joe Morello, Steve Gadd, Bill Bruford, Elvin Jones, Paul Wertico, and even John Bonham in Eric’s drumming.
Nelson brings an inventive vocal approach to ESG. His tone is closer to such distinctive pop and rock singers as Jeff Buckley, Sting and Graham Nash than to most contemporary jazz vocalists. Nelson says that his singing style ultimately stems from “wanting to sound more like a horn player.” (Eric and Nelson’s father is a professional trumpeter.) Nelson’s trumpet-like singing is especially evident on the song “In the Spirit.”
About Such Is Life – The New Album (2014)
Eric recently completed work on a new batch of material. Culling elements of jazz, classical, and bossa nova, this new songbook was begging for the kind of powerful, precise, treatment that only ESG could provide. “I reassembled the group specifically to record these new works,” explained Eric. “The idea was to record a jazz quartet live in the studio, then add orchestral arrangements later on.”
“Usually musicians are responding to previously composed orchestrations. In this case, the orchestra answers the players,” added Eric. This recording approach, while unorthodox, proved a perfect fit for Eric’s new material, which is a combination of carefully crafted melodies and spontaneous improvisation.
Such Is Life takes listeners on a musical journey to both recognized and unchartered territories. For example, “Can Spring Be Far Behind” recalls the glory days of bebop while “The Conjuror” is a seductive bossa nova with vocal. The most ambitious piece on the album, a two-part composition called “Dream Me,” starts out as a Jobim- style number before morphing into a rocking vamp with lush orchestrations and a searing violin
The innovative string ensemble Ethel deftly performed Starr’s involved arrangements on the recording. “When I asked Cornelius Dufallo [Ethel’s 1st violinist] to play the complex solo I had composed for “Dream Me, Part II” he made the impossible possible. Few violinists could have played this solo quite as skillfully,” extolled Eric.
In all, Such Is Life is a grand amalgam of jazz styles and compositional elements pulled off with just the right amount of cool, experimentation, compelling execution, and poise. Each track bristles with deep purpose and inspiration.