|The opening "Silvana," with its simple, reflective theme, partially realizes von Essen's longtime desire to collaborate with drummer Peter Erskine, whose snowy ticking gently urges on Dave Carpenter to carve out some ebony bass and Alan Pasqua to lilt and uplift lace curtains of piano. Stacy Rowles' trumpet and Larry ã73 Koonse's guitar hush the air over "Love Song for Kirsi," which seems to come and go in a moment of pure humility as pianist Tom Garvin lays out a new white tablecloth. "Nowhere" is the kind of quietly bold romantic ballad, like a '40s movie theme but more delicate, that's made for the touch Alan Broadbent brings to the ivories.
There's more physical stuff, too: a couple of thought-provoking not-really-blues ("Blues for Carin'" and "Blues Puzzle"), a tribute to the brilliant harmonic sense of Benny Golson ("Benny"), and "Peacemaker," a bouncing-off-the-walls Alex Clinebooted rumba with guitarist Nels Cline flittering around the edges of control and David Witham's piano exploiting the harmonic implications of Joel Hamilton's flexible bass. The weightiest emotional package arrives courtesy of the Quartet-Music-minus-Eric (and plus Michael Elizondo) rumination "Departure": An end-of-phrase guitar note winds up a half-step lower than you expect; one chord resolves in unexpected resignation while another is "suspended" in both senses; sometimes an essential element just seems to drop out. Yeah.
It's fresh. You'll notice right away, while appreciating how easy it is to hear, that you haven't heard anything much like it. Simple melodies are supported by shifting substructures. Genres are harmonically ungenred. And mainly, ways are found of expressing feelings without thinking about anything except how notes and rhythms will serve those feelings. Composer and musicians have to know a lot about music to do that. -by Greg Burk