As a leader, saxophonist Peter Epstein released three modern jazz CDs, one Portuguese CD, a solo sax record with some classical music and some improvisations, a fantastic world jazz album ("Lingua Franca"), and all this in a quite irregular time span, of which most ten years ago and not much lately.
He is a musician with broad technical skills, open to many genres, and that seems to have been his problem in creating a specific profile.
But now he's here with an absolutely stellar album. The band is Andy Barbera on guitar, Sam Minaie on bass, and Matt Mayhall on drums, with the leader on alto. Brian Walsh joins as a guest on bass clarinet, and Gavin Templeton on alto and soprano saxophones, for two reed trios, and joining on some other tracks.
Compositionally, this is without a doubt his best album. He's gone beyond the tune, beyond the rhyhthmic spielerei to create a wonderfully compelling and gripping album, on which instruments and sounds are of a rare expressive power. One of the album's major strengths is the paradoxical combination of relatively light textures with the overall gravitas and emotional depth of the music.On some tracks, his world music interests and scales seep into the improvisations, which gives the whole even more character.
Epstein's tone on alto is a joy, he can switch from a very pure sound to raw blasts, and high sensitive whimpers. But so is the playing by the rest of the band, and for the same reason : Barbera plays clean-toned and fluid, yet on the right moments the sounds gets harsh and powerful. Luckily, they've also gone beyond the demonstration of skills: it is all so functional to serve the quality of the final musical result. And that holds true for the use of electronics in the long title track.