Ellery Eskelin Trio | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ellery Eskelin Trio 

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ELLERY ESKELIN TRIO

Through a wide variety of provocative contexts tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin has established himself as one of the most interesting musicians on New York's bustling new jazz scene. He's played in Joint Venture--a quartet he led with trumpeter Paul Smoker--he works in drummer Joey Baron's raucous and bassless Barondown, he's led a traditional sax trio and one with Joe Daly's tuba filling the bass role, and he's performed compelling solo programs. It should come as no surprise that the trio he brings to his Chicago debut flouts convention as well. As heard on last year's terrific Jazz Trash (Songlines) Eskelin's brawny but nimble tenor is masterfully countered by the jarring figures of Andrea Parkins, who alternates between accordion and sampler, and the expansive, coloristic drumming of Jim Black, who played brilliantly just a few weeks ago in a quartet led by Tim Berne. Eskelin conveys a strong jazz lineage, his marvelously fat tone crafting melodic detail with Sonny Rollins-like muscle and verve, but he's equally adept at traversing swing concerns and taking his smart melodic gifts into the realm of texture and tension. Black poses a like-minded double threat: he can keep time, but he's just as amazing when he sculpts sound and fills in the spaces. Parkins, sister of radical harpist Zeena, offers the occasional harmonic center but also goes off on her own evocative jags. Though this highly distinctive trio experiments with sound voraciously, it also has perspective, balance, and self-control. This gig marks the group's first American date outside of New York. Wednesday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/W. Patrick Hinely.

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