Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ben Perowsky - Esopus Opus (Skirl Records, 2009)

Coming in an oversized package that is as colorful as the music itself, drummer and composer Ben Perowsky’s latest disc draws on a wide variety of source material: rock and pop, Indian music, jazz and modern classical to create a very exciting and vibrant statement. On this album, he is joined by Chris Speed on clarinet and tenor saxophone, Ted Reichman on accordion and Drew Gress and bass. You might think with just a quartet that their sound palette might be limited, but this is not the case at all due to Reichman’s facility on his instrument. He is able to get sounds and tones running the gamut from a Hammond B3 to a wheezy bagpipe and this greatly enhances the arrangements of this album. Among the most interesting performances are a couple of jazzified rock ‘n’ roll covers, notably the group’s hell-for-leather take on Jimi Hendrix’s anthem “Manic Depression.” The energy is pure rock ‘n’ roll, but the arrangement is ingenious and all jazz with Perowsky’s powerful drumming driving the performance home and Reichman pumping his bellows for all he is worth. Two Beatles songs illustrate how much depth the band has. “Within You Without You” was one of their first experiments with Indian music and instead of the sitar George Harrison used on the original, long lines of accordion and clarinet make for an alluring soundscape. “Flying” is taken at a patient gentle tempo. It’s not all covers, though, "Esopus Opus" is a short blast of original, organic fun that deserves a chance to be a 45 RPM single if such things existed any longer. This is a wildly imaginative and well played album. In retrospect, I am surprised that this album did not get more attention during Patrick Jarenwattananon’s Jazz Now project, as it seems like the ideal album to introduce an audience raised on rock ‘n’ roll to the joys of jazz.
Esopus Opus -

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