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John Escreet: Exception to the Rule

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John Escreet’s partnership with the exceptional alto saxophonist David Binney has certainly been one of the keys to the young pianist’s success. Equally important, though, has been his choice of drummers. Since moving to New York from his native England, Escreet has performed and recorded with Tyshawn Sorey, Jim Black, Marcus Gilmore and Nasheet Waits. His association with such remarkable young traps stars says a lot about his toughness as well as his taste.

Waits’ poise and slippery power are perfectly suited to Escreet’s moody, mercurial approach on Exception to the Rule. Much of the album, Escreet’s third, seems to have been written in a dream state. Tinkly lines, quivering underscoring and the occasional spooky electronic effect characterize songs like “Redeye” (music for creeping into a mysterious locked room) and “Electrotherapy” (minimalist sounds for a new-age massage).

But with Binney burning through modal space, navigating tricky postbop melodies and setting up Escreet’s tumbling phrases and Cecil Taylor-esque scrambles, the music is vibrantly awake. That the shifts in style and mood work so well is a reflection of the chemistry of Escreet’s quartet, which includes the probing Eivind Opsvik on bass, and the artful restraint the players maintain. In the end, Escreet may play things a bit too close to the vest as a soloist. But Exception to the Rule is his best album, a significant advance over the fusion updates of The Age We Live In.

Originally Published