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Ellery Eskelin: Trio New York II

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Laidback, low-key, unassuming-this is how tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin rolls: no small task for a sax-organ-drums trio either, for such combos have a tendency to be hard-grooving, show-offy affairs. But Eskelin’s is a different sort of organ group. The saxophonist, not the organist, is the dominant voice, and the organist, Gary Versace-well, he doesn’t play like your typical jazz organist here. No riffs. No one-bar phrases repeated ad nauseam. He’s more Larry Young than Jimmy Smith.

A half-dozen standards make up Trio New York II, recorded in early 2013 as a follow-up to the group’s 2011 effort. This one’s equally stellar. The standard “Midnight Sun,” one of the loveliest songs in jazz, commences with a sax-and-organ duet that sounds more like sax and computer. Versace picks blips and bleeps out of his keys while Eskelin improvises off the chords for nearly three minutes, before they settle into the familiar theme. Gerald Cleaver brings brushes to cymbals, and Versace switches to a church sound. Throughout, rhythm is only hinted at, never stated explicitly.

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