Review by Brad Walseth
Leading a crew of young jazz firebrands, NYC-based trumpeter Nathan Eklund's successful second recording, "The Crooked Line," presents a slew of well-crafted originals, along with some surprising cover arrangements, played by musicians with skill and talent to spare.
From the opening riffs of "The Mayor" to the final note of the title track, there is little wasted motion and an abundance of interesting and pleasing music. Saxophonist Craig Yaremko provides exceptional counterpoint to Ecklund and the partnership seems quite natural and comfortable. Pianist Joe Elefante also fits like a glove with what the horns are doing and all three's solos relate well to one another. Bassist Brian Killeen and drummer Josh Dion round out the group and are tight and solid as can be, while flashing a strong creative bent as well.
"Emancipated Thinking" is a rewarding waltz that shows these young players can swing and play with subtlety, while "Kydee" is a Latin piece with Yaremko on soprano and Ecklund on flugelhorn. The songwriting shows modern post-bop sensibility, but with a new original vision that includes intriguingly subtle time changes and tonal colors bodes well for the future.
The old standard "All the Things You Are" is covered here with a fresh and swinging arrangement that moves back and forth between 4/4 & 3/4, while Lee Morgan's "Totem Pole" is strangely done as a tango - and works! Some listeners may be surprised to hear Ecklund's unexpected cover of pop singer Bjork's "Isobel," but those familiar with the Icelandic post-punk artist's work will agree that her work does carry a certain melodicism that can be carried over into other genre.
"More Ways Than One" features Eklund and Yaremko weaving fluid lines against one another, while the title track features some wonderful straight ahead grooving. Colorful and mature arrangements and playing for musicians so young, "The Crooked Line" is an argument against those who consider Jazz as dead or dying.