The opening track "Surrender" is the hook that takes your ear and slowly caresses it with soothing saxophone lines that guide the listener with stop and start ostinato patterns, intriguing melody lines and that ever probing piano underlay of full power chords. The drummer, Tyshawn Sorey with forceful authority plays a style of talking drum, communicating quite clearly as to why you will surrender to this tune. The alto and tenor saxophone are in harmony, wailing with a sense of urgency, crying out with clear, bluesy lines. Always dynamic and passionate taking the song for a wild ride that fades to a bass interlude as Christopher Tordini bends the mood through well positioned notes and strums magnificent full resonating chords. The song gently returns to end as it began. And so it goes from song to well crafted song as each musician compliments the Jesse Elder compositions.
The title track "The Winding Shell" opens with sounds that create vivid imagery. For me it is blue water crashing over a break wall. The rolling waves building sandy shore lines and wind swept dunes. The music is calm yet a tension boils just under the surface. The piano played with single notes in the high register creates a dream like effect. There is a powerful undercurrent stirred from a strong piano bass line. The song takes on a surreal feel, time shifting and col-arco bass with percussion that builds to a misty haze before gently fading away.
The final four compositions are piano duets and could just as easily have been a separate album. In just under eighteen minutes the listener is treated to enticing chamber music from piano and strings. The strings of the piano are strummed, plucked, pulled, tweaked and hammered upon. Everything in moderation with Mr. Elder, this is a delicate and finesse filled overture that provides a glimpse into the future. I look forward to hearing more from Jesse Elder, in the mean time The Winding Shell will be getting plenty of spin time.