Review by Brad Walseth
What a pleasure to hear this new release from young rising trumpet star and composer, Nathan Eklund, whose previous well-regraded album, The Crooked Line was reviewed by us here. On Trip to the Casbah the Seattle-born, New Jersey-based brassman has assembled an exceptional cast of musicians, including tenor player extraordinaire Donny McCaslin, and veterans guitarist John Hart, bassist Bill Moring and drummer Tim Horner to perform his original compositions.
"Toboggan Ride" initiates the fun, with great solos by Eklund, Hart, McCaslin and Horner over a romping rhythm section. McCaslin is great as always in his appearances, but Hart may be the biggest surprise, a long-time NYC-area player with major credits (Chris Potter, Brother Jack McDuff) whose clean and sprightly guitar work adds a nice counterpoint to the horn and reed players while comping and who dashes around in a somewhat Grant Green-like manner on his solos as on "Passing Trains." Eklund, meanwhile has a light airy touch on trumpet and flugelhorn, along with a prodigious level of proficiency. This combination is a delight to hear, and his solos are graceful and confident. Horner is an active player in the NYC area, appearing with artists like Bill Mays, Bill Cunliffe, Ted Nash and Craig Yaremko. He is given several chances to shine and merits enough in his spotlight moments to appear to be a player worth watching.
"Hand Picked from Her Garden" is a lovely duet waltz indicating Hart has absorbed some Jim Hall as well. The interplay between Hart and Eklund is a special thing. The Spanish-influenced "South Chelan" plays right into the hands of these talented players, who show great group dynamics (it is no surprise to learn that Hart, Horner and Moring have played together for years). Part one of "Trip to the Casbah" is pulse-racing duet between Eklund and drummer Horner that leads into the exciting second part. "Long Lake" meanwhile features Hart showing a touch of Brazilian influence with lovely unison lines from the horns. The bluesy "Big Bro's Backstop," followed by the funky and highly addictive "Fast Food" ends this solid recording, leaving the listener with a feeling of appreciation that enjoyable music in the straight-ahead jazz genre is still being produced, and that it will continue to be created if players like Eklund and his cohorts have anything to say about it.