This blog has been quiet lately for many different reasons but not for lack of material. There's a review of 7 CDs with trombonists as leaders that is just waiting for a rainy morning and 4 strong new releases from Accurate Records that deserves both my attention and yours. In the meantime, it's the one-step-at-a-time approach.
Coin Flip - Nathan Eklund Group (OA2 Records) - A native of Washington state who's been in New York City since 1998, trumpeter/composer Nathan Eklund has been steadily inching his way into the ears of jazz fans. He leads 2 different quintets and has worked and recorded with Spyrogyra, Richie Cole, Chuck Loeb and others. He's performed with Joe Lovano, Claudio Roditi, Eddie Daniels as well as subbing in Broadway "pit" bands.
The Group recorded here, its first CD for the Seattle-based OA2 label, features Craig Yaremko (saxophones), Kellen Harrison (bass), the dynamic Shawn Baltazor (drums) and Steve Myerson (Fender Rhodes). On the surface, it's easy to compare this ensemble with the Miles Davis Quintet on the late 1960s but a better comparison would be to the Dave Douglas ensemble with Uri Caine on electric piano. This music goes in many directions, from the hard-bop romp of "Triple Shot Espresso" to the intricately drawn portrait that is "Happy Sadness." Eklund has a clean, clear, tone on both trumpet and flugelhorn - his solos often are articulated phrases where one can hear each note ("One Year Ago Today" is a prime example, a piece that aso stands out for Yaremko's sweet soprano sax work.)
The music is rarely rushed, the soloists take their time to develop their statements, and the songs have real melodies and not just riffs that lead directly to solos. The use of Fender Rhodes might make one expect a "fusion" sound but this music is solidly post-bop and mainstream. Myerson's solos have, on the uptempo tracks, great forward motion - his introduction to "Happy Sadness" is soft, subtle and quite rich. The rhythm section work is solid and fluid, with deep bass lines and propulsive drumming. Best of all, they don't "overplay" or overwhelm the music.
"Coin Flip" is attractive music, featuring a group that really plays together and the results are joyously musical. For more information, go to www.nathaneklund.com or www.oa2records.com.