While I wouldn’t call it pastoral or romantic, I get a relaxed vibe from much of this sax/piano duo album. Even on the spiky, aggressive pieces, there’s a warmth to the flow of Ellery Eskelin‘s sax. It’s a pillowy quality, especially when he’s bobbing and weaving in a low-middle register. He’s capable of getting shrill with higher notes but usually does so with a less acid/abrasive feel than John Zorn or Tim Berne. It’s part of what I liked so much about his early solo album, Premonition.
Not that the music is all warm and glowy. Sylvie Courvoisier, alternates between a thoughtful chamber mode and avant-garde abandon, painting some nicely dark moods along the way. The opener, “Moderato Cantabile,” patiently marches forward with a dusky, weighted sound, later getting into tense classical undertones with piano becoming more of the lead voice, with Eskelin’s sax adding color scribbles to a stormy sky.
That’s followed by pointillistic flittering and some sour-toned sax on “Architectural,” which winds up with a quick-river flow and some jagged piano. “Processing” features tense sax over a rattly prepared-piano drone. “A Distant Place,” the longest track at nine minutes, ends up in a stark and abstract, uh, place.
Still, there’s an intimate feel even to the darker tracks — like the cautiously building intensity of “Open Channel,” with Courvoisier rattling away on prepared piano. Or “Accidentals,” which has the feel of a flowing conversation, maybe with a strident air to the piano.
Eskelin and Courvoisier also have a trio album out, with cellist Vincent Courtois, called As Soon As Possible. It came out, on Cam Jazz, at around the same time this one did, so maybe the temporal theme to the titles was intentional.