Ellery Eskelin – Mirage (CF 271)
For years. tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin has worked in a vibrant trio with Jim Black on drums, and Andrea Parkins on accordion, sampler, and
other instruments. ln Mirape he takes a wholly different route. puming aside drums and pursuing open expanses of sound with sought-after lmpro-
viser Michael Formanek on bass and Baltimore’s Susan Alcorn on pedal steel guitar. The album is wholly improvised; each ffack is from three to su minutes long, save for “Downburst,” which balloons to nearly half an hour.
Hearing pedal steel in a harmonic contexr this absrract is srrikine: Alcorn’s poftamento and miciotonal abilities with the slide lend the music a probing, ebb-and-flow character. But Alcorn’s harmony has a spookiness, a “what on Earth is that?” factor that belongs to no genre.
Eskelin’s horn and Formanek’s mostly pizzicato bass are forcefully Dresent. while Alcorn tends toward i sound that’s more blanketed, at a slisht remove. Eskelin’s back-to-back duos with her (“Refraction”) and Fonnanek (“Occlusion”) bring out the insfruments’ varied shadines remarkablv well. ‘Several bf Erk.lin’r endines on Mr-ragehave a legato. brearhy. rriiiing-off qualiw that comes from the heart of
lhe ja.z ballad rradition, from late-era Lester Youns to Dexter Gordon and onward. Thoueh this music sounds norhing like rhi well-known jazz standards that Eskelin dissects at lensth with his superb Trio New York. his-tenor has a laid-back intensity that makes all the different languages cohere.