Ben Perowsky’s Opus

Ben Perowsky Quartet Esopus Opus (Skirl, 2009)

Here’s a spirited session made up of Skirl regulars.  Ted Reichman (accordion) and label owner Chris Speed (sax/clarinet) define the sound, but Perowsky (drums) has the controls, putting solid beats behind some upbeat compositions.

“Present Distance” stands out for the pulsing accordion that sets the rhythm, with Speed playing some bright, razzing sax. A solo section later on has Speed moving more freely alongside Drew Gress (bass), with Perosky pounding away. I do appreciate the airy, languid motif that’s been in Speed’s and Skirl’s work (The Clarinets comes to mind), but the fire of Perowsky’s drums throughout the album is a treat.

Beatle covers usually leave me cold, but”Within You Without You,” with the accordion replicating a sitar drone, works well. It’s also the kind of languid atmosphere that Speed revels in, weaving clarinet lines around and through the fabric of the tone. “Flying,” the lone ’60s track credited to all four Beatles, is a quirky choice for a cover; it’s inserted like a bit of an in-joke and is kept appropriately short.

Perowsky also adds a spirited cover of Hendrix’s “Manic Depression,” with a catchy pulsing accordion setting up a jovial, carnival-like air. I like it.

Perowsky likes his traditional jazz, too.  “Keylime” is a bluesy, brazen opening. “Murnau on the Bayou” is an outright swampy New Orleans drag, deliciously slow and rich with old-timey jazz flavor.

I really liked the title track, a short, poking, cutesy composition. The album closes with its most somber number, “Red Hook,” which confines Gress to a bass pulse that sets up a pleasant yet slightly unsettling sax/accordion melody.

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