Sabatoge and Celebration by John Escreet
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About: Sabotage and Celebration
Release Date: October 15, 2013: Worldwide Physical & Digital
Sabotage and Celebration is the fifth solo album (and first WWR release) from one of the world's most dynamic and original artists, pianist and composer John Escreet. The album glistens from start to finish with the endless imagination and unrelenting vision of a truly singular voice in modern music, and is aptly supported by an A-list of the world's preeminent creative musicians who all contribute inspired performances at the peak of their powers. Any attempt to pigeonhole the music on the album would be futile, as Escreet's compositional palette is as wide open as his piano virtuosity, complete without boundaries, and this new recording boasts such an ambitious production and scope it excitedly reaffirms with each listen that musical possibility is truly infinite.
Sabotage and Celebration was recorded on November 7th 2012, the day after the United States' presidential election which saw Barack Obama win a second term in office over his opponent Mitt Romney. On the night before the recording date (election night itself), the group performed the music in NYC in preparation for the session (literally as the results were coming in) amidst an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty, which gave way to an atmosphere of celebration as the final result became apparent and was eventually announced. The title of the album is in many ways a literal description of the track that bears its name: in the early stages of the piece there is sonic madness, almost as if the music itself is being 'sabotaged'. This eventually transitions into a highly contrasting second section, which emotes feelings of celebration and even dance. The title also refers to many of the widely reported voter issues (which many described as simply 'voter sabotage') that took place in various parts of the US during the election: overbearing and restrictive voter ID laws, the long lines at polling stations which ultimately prevented many people from casting their vote, as well as supposed 'malfunctions' in many electronic voting machines. Yet despite this, the end result signaled a celebration that reached way beyond the United States.
The presidential election was not the only real life event that influenced the music on Sabotage and Celebration. Says Escreet, "The music was written at different stages, but a lot of it was written a week before the recording session, which was also during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season). NYC was effectively shut down for an entire week - there was no public transport and much of the city was without power. I was stuck in my apartment and couldn’t really go anywhere all week, so I stayed home, wrote and did nothing else. It just so happened that the music that I wrote during this time ended up being what I consider to be the strongest material."
Escreet's new album covers an incredible amount of musical ground. A string section is prominently featured as a result of his recent re-fascination with orchestral music; listen in as he seamlessly incorporates it into the context of a conventional quintet. And that's not all- brass, guitars and vocals are also layered into the proceedings in surprising ways, creating music of a larger scale. "A lot of the albums back in the 70s featured a wider sonic palette, using stings, brass and all kinds of different instruments. Those influences, combined with some of the pop music I have been listening to recently helped shape the sound of this album, along with all kinds of other influences. I have also been spending more time in Los Angeles over the past couple of years, where my good friends and musical collaborators Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi (aka KNOWER) are based. It was great to have them contribute vocals to the last track on the album." Escreet explains.
Sabotage and Celebration comes from a prolific individual who has digested an alarming amount of music in his barely 30 years, and yet with all of its sophistication and wit, Escreet composes and performs with big passion straight from the heart. If this is his vision of music at this stage in his young career, there really is no telling what's next.
And that is a very exciting prospect.
"An outstanding album, with excellent performances throughout."
5 Stars, BBC Music Magazine
"One of the contemporary jazz highlights of 2013."
4 Stars, Jazzwise Magazine
"Music that lunges through funk grooves, corkscrew melodic lines, high-wire improvisations and chamber-esque string arrangements, with a core band featuring the saxophonists David Binney and Chris Potter, the bassist Matt Brewer and the drummer Jim Black."
The New York Times
"UK-born, New York-based pianist/composer Escreet outdoes himself on his aptly titled fifth album, an overwhelming, original onslaught of mint-fresh invention and virtuosity."
4 Stars, MOJO Magazine
"Tension. Fear. Drama. Resolution. Joy. Comfort. On his excellent fifth album as a leader, John Escreet expresses a range of emotion and the kind of narrative arc that wouldn't be out of place in an opera."
4 Stars, Downbeat Magazine
"Sabotage and Celebration finds this precociously accomplished small-ensemble composer relishing a broader palette. He's a big talent."
4 Stars, The Guardian
"Escreets originals are outstanding."
4 Stars, The Evening Standard
"This album confirms that John Escreet has become fully assimilated as a major player on the US jazz scene. He’s arguably the UK’s most successful and influential musical export to the US since Dave Holland."
4 Stars, The JazzMann
"Sabotage and Celebration is Escreet's most ambitious work yet, and also his most successful. At just 29 years old, he proves himself to be a mature artist and one of the leaders in the new generation of composers and improvisers who are pushing the boundaries of jazz."
All About Jazz
The Pittsburgh Tribune
"Sabotage And Celebration is one of the year’s most dazzling recordings, something of a composition masterclass and a satisfying balance of science and spirit."
4 1/2 Stars, Music OMH
"Sabotage and Celebration showcases a considerable (and remarkably versatile) compositional talent, its seven pieces ranging unaffectedly between arresting, voluble themes employing a deep and satisfying ensemble sound (involving both string and brass sections); gutsy, tear-it-up saxophone solos, dazzlingly fleet piano passages and exhilarating free improvisation; and – in a mesmerizing final cut, ‘Beyond Your Wildest Dreams’ – a slowly achieved but ultimately irresistibly hypnotic and stirring climax.This is a fine, seething stew of an album, packed with unexpected felicities."
"It's angular and swinging at the same time, sure to keep you guessing as you savor the whole. Wild stuff throughout that keeps Escreet at the top of his game."
The Midwest Record
"There’s emotional width and narrative drive on pianist/composer John Escreet’s tough-centred and disciplined round-up of New York’s current left field. Jerky, angular themes sit on tight rock-driven riffs, optimistic grooves rarely resolve and blasts of free jazz deliver controlled fury. Saxophonists David Binney and Chris Potter are contrasting lead voices and Jim Black and Matt Brewer on drums and bass imply hidden complexities. But it’s Escreet’s sense of form which really stands out as the jazz flows free while strings, brass and voices keep structure intact."
4 Stars, The Financial Times
"Escreet has built an enviable reputation since moving to New York and already Sabotage and Celebration is being touted as his most ambitious work to date. Escreet is in stellar form alongside a top drawer line-up, the album also features a string section and additional brass players.
Jazzwise Magazine (album preview)
Sandy Brown Reviews