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The Winding Shell by Jesse Elder

Jesse Elder has a new CD, The Winding Shelland it is long past due. His debut recording Jesse Elder Quintet - Leaf Lines (Independent 2005) showcased a talented composer and pianist. The new recording carries on in the quintet mode for the majority of the CD. The last four tracks "Four Hand Piano Improvisation" are piano duet with Aya Nishina. The quintet material is wonderful and invigorating with compositions that are rooted in experimental jazz while crossing boundaries that border on hard bop, jazz fusion and 21st century neoclassicism. Aided and abetted by a diverse group of woodwind musicians, Gary Thomas, Chris Cheek, Jeremy Viner and Logan Richardson, the saxophone becomes the voice inside the seashell, surreal yet vividly harmonious. Mr. Elder leads skillfully, with minimalist Monk like probing to flashes of brilliance with lightning runs. Always pushing - guiding the composition, blending and inspiring The Winding Shell is brilliant.

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.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jesse Elder
  • CD Title: The Winding Shell
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Off Records
  • Tracks: Surrender, Solar Plexus, The Thoughtful Nudge, Flight of the Pelican, Rotating Canvases, Kiss Rain, Red Paint, The Winding Shell, All Moments, Four Hands Piano Improvisations I, II, III, IV
  • Musicians: Logan Richardson (alto saxophone), Gary Thomas (tenor saxophone), Chris Cheek tenor saxophone), Jeremy Viner (tenor saxophone), Jesse Elder (piano), Aya Nishina (piano), Christopher Tordini (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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