* * * *1/2 stars!
Humor and camaraderie characterize the thoroughly enjoyable debut from this communal big band with an ongoing Sunday residency at a stylish and comfortable subterranean venue in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood.
Led by trumpeter Erik Jekabson, the ESO is an impressively democratic group. On the album, 15 0f the 23 members have solos, and five contribute original compositions. Cheap Rent
opens with a bright-sounding arrangement of Wayne Shorter's "ESP," and the repertoire of Shorter's longtime comrade Herbie Hancock is also visited in the form of a version of "People Music" that maintains the electric cool of the original 1976 recording.
The title track, written by trumpeter Darren Johnston, could be interpreted as an ironic nod to the Bay Area's skyrocketing housing market. Alto saxophonist Sheldon Brown's "Bolenge Shuffle" could energize the dance floor of many a wedding reception. And Garland's "Gap Toothed Grin" brings a welcomed second-line spirit to the bandstand.