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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hey folks,
Thought I'd post some info about my latest recording. In some ways, quite a lot of what I've learned in the past year or so from reading SOTW regarding horns and mouthpieces (as well as woodwind acoustics, believe it or not) has come into play with this project, this being my first recording with my 1927 Conn tenor since recently changing from a Selmer MK VI. Learning how to play this horn has had a pretty big effect on my musical aesthetic as well. So I want to say thanks to all of you who have engaged in saxophonistic conversations with me.

Excerpts are posted on the website. If you like what you hear, you can order it direct. Thanks…



ELLERY ESKELIN - Trio New York

Ellery Eskelin - tenor saxophone
Gary Versace - Hammond B3 organ
Gerald Cleaver - drums


Given that my mother, organist "Bobbie Lee", had a professional career in Baltimore in the 1960's I have always had a love and affinity for the sound of the Hammond B3. It only makes sense that I would one day put together an organ project of my own. This recording session, with Gary Versace on organ and Gerald Cleaver on drums, reaches back to the beginnings of my musical consciousness (some of these tunes were in my mother's repertoire) yet speaks to the current musical realities of my life as a musician who has spent the last thirty years living in New York City, traveling the globe and celebrating a life in music.

This project is the culmination of a year's worth of work. As a saxophonist I've undergone something of a reassessment and reorientation with the instrument. As a bandleader this new ensemble represents a conceptual integration of free improvisation with traditional material. It helps that Gary and Gerald have ears for for the entire swath of jazz history, right up to the moment and into the future. We cover some very early standards such as "Memories of You" and "Lover, Come Back to Me" but treat them very loosely, using them to shape our improvisations rather than dictate them.
 

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Very, very nice. Great music!
 

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Thanks guys...

By the way, we will be touring Europe in January. Hope to meet some SOTW folks there. Maybe playing the Beuscher on that one.
Exchange rate is good now...come up to Canada!!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Exchange rate is good now...come up to Canada!!!!!
Would love to! And probably will although setting these things up can take time. What's the scene like where you are?



Are you coming to Holland in januari?
Also quite possible, I'll post dates as the time gets closer. I will be coming to Holland with another group in October though...

Celano Baggiani Group and Ellery Eskelin / Sylvie Courvoisier
Friday, October 7th - Paradox, Tilburg
Saturday, October 8th - Hot House, Leiden
Sunday, October 9th, SJU, Utrecht
Monday, October 10th - Cafe Wilhemina, Eindhoven
Wednesday, October 12th - Muziek Podium Zeeland, Middelburg
Thursday, October 13th - Bimhuis, Amsterdam
Saturday, October 15th - Lantaren Venster, Rotterdam
 

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Would love to! And probably will although setting these things up can take time. What's the scene like where you are?
Not wanting to answer for Rory, but I would really love for you to come to this neck of the woods. There is a pretty active scene (for a small city) in Halifax which is where Rory is (I believe). The Halifax jazz festival seems to get some pretty decent talent in every year (unlike the one where I live that has become a watered down blues festival). Halifax would be about a 4hr drive for me and I would definitely make that work if you were to make the trip north!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the tip. A buddy of mine was talking about doing something in Maine at some point. If so, that'd make it easier to get up to Canada. It'll happen some way, some time. I'm actually overdue to get up there. Will keep you posted.

And thanks to those of you (you know who your are) who have ordered the recording. Much appreciated and I hope you enjoy the sounds…looking forward to more stimulating discussions here at SOTW.
 

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Not wanting to answer for Rory, but I would really love for you to come to this neck of the woods. There is a pretty active scene (for a small city) in Halifax which is where Rory is (I believe). The Halifax jazz festival seems to get some pretty decent talent in every year (unlike the one where I live that has become a watered down blues festival). Halifax would be about a 4hr drive for me and I would definitely make that work if you were to make the trip north!!!
Yeah, in Halifax it's pretty much the jazz festival (good pay/excellent media/great crowds) and then small potatoes the rest of the time. It's probably too late now for this summer, but I'm hoping the strong dollar will attract some folks northward!
 

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EE NYC said:
Learning how to play this horn has had a pretty big effect on my musical aesthetic as well.
That's interesting. Where has it taken you? I love the intimacy and snap of your sound on the clips.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks Paul, I had been interested in filling out my sound and darkening it for some time which is what led me to the Conn. On this horn I want to play slower, softer and with less sonic extremes, looking for the essence of a sound, phrase or gesture. Musically that means putting out less "information" and trying to imbue everything with a heightened awareness and focus. That affects the dynamic of any improvising group I'm in.

Also, learning how to play this horn has forced me to re-learn the whole idea of playing what I hear as opposed to playing things that my fingers know. I practice super slow now, really assessing every note as to whether I really heard it or not.

In further trying to figure out how these horns work I've been listening almost exclusively to music recorded prior to 1950, especially '20s and '30s. I think there's a lot of sonic territory there (almost akin to a lost art) that can be applied to the kind of free improvising I'm most interested in.

I think the "snap" you hear in the sound is facilitated by the mouthpiece, a Francois Louis that I had him work on. I actually think it could us a little less snap sometimes. If I push it too hard it can be difficult to maintain the warmth. If I see him again I'm going to get him to smooth the rollover out. I have a Lebayle large chamber (in which I had Fred Lebayle remove the rollover) that is darker which I've been using a bit more for that reason.

Ya know Paul, I just realized that we corresponded some years back on the subject of saxophonists who doubled on strings (back in the day) and the possible effect this had on the saxophone conception at that time. I was preparing some liner notes for an improvised project I did with strings (called "Vanishing Point", from 2000). You were very helpful in providing examples and insight. I still have your e-mail which was chock full of information. I gave you a thank you credit in the notes. Allow me to say thanks again!

I find the history of all this fascinating…
 

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Well I think it's good stuff. I recently bought an old '25 Conn Tenor - While what I do is as different as night and day from your stuff, I agree the instrument is taking me in different directions that where I was headed with my modern Selmer. I always think you jazz catz (the good ones like you) are fantastic players. The tone you're getting is really nice. It's back to the woodshed for me. :)
 

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As a active fan, listener, player of this genre of Free Improvising and not just Jazz music played without restrictions is something i have followed with a passion now for over 30 years. when Ellery has something to say you can bet i take that information seriously. it's a coincidence a friend of mine Ivo Perelman also after many years into a fruitful energetic recording career also changed how he sounds and plays to a darker tonality and slower lines...maybe it is just age catching up. for a while i suscribed to the saxophonist Jack Wright school of improvising and its players who also have this multi-directional thing happening too.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
It's back to the woodshed for me. :)
Me too! Thanks fader...

...maybe it is just age catching up.
Hi TPR,
Well, after exploiting the horn for all I could get it to do for all these years I'm realizing that this is an area that I have yet to explore fully. Also, I'm realizing more and more that the fundamental aspects of playing require constant attention in order to foster the deepest personal connection in the sound. So while age has something to do with it, it's not a matter of slowing down "with age". More a matter of realizing that time is limited and the saxophone is seemingly inexhaustible.

Although I will say that there is a certain kind of gravitas that I hear in players of a certain age. I'm not even sure what that is yet but I'm aware of it when I hear it. Maybe something to do with not having to prove one's self any longer. Ironically, backing off in some ways can result in musical statements that are "heavier" for lack of a better word. I distinctly recall hearing this quality in Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre's playing when I heard him in Finland some years back.

At any rate, it can be a risky thing to change up from expectations. Reactions have been positive for the most part but some have thought me "off my game", "underplaying" or asking if I was "not feeling well". Kind of funny really. I'll just have to try harder…to not try so hard…
 

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Now this is strictly speculation - I don't really know your old sound or bag - but could people have been reacting to NOT hearing whatever they heard when you played the VI?

The core and tightness of the VI sound is so ubiquitous. Is it possible many listeners just assume unconsciously that that's the sound of a saxophone played at a high level - and that a change means something is missing?

Were any of these listeners saxophonists? Selmer users? Some of this may be what you get for going counter to one of music's most total marketing victories.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I don't think it was the inherent qualities or tendencies of the horns that anyone was relating to. I simply mentioned the horn switch as a catalyst that assisted me in heading in a different musical direction. It's just that many folks have come to expect a certain way of playing from some of my past work. But to put it simply, nowadays I'm less into shouting and more into whispering. That can be done on any horn of course but for me the Conn is special in this regard.

This also plays into the expected role of the saxophone in jazz and improvised music. In much of the improv I do I'm interested less in "soloing" and more interested in a compositional, group oriented approach to improvising. Typically folks assume that any time the horn player has the horn in their mouth they must be taking a solo. And if they aren't going for blood then they must be "off" somehow. But sometimes you might really want to be somewhere inside the music rather than out in front of it. And that can sometimes be misinterpreted.

I've seen this kind of misinterpretation with other players too. Sometimes Wayne Shorter. I think he's at the height of his abilities. But he chooses to play quite a lot less than in the past. Judging from some comments I've seen, this seems to disappoint folks who to expect more fireworks. But to me he's reached a point where his whole being is in every sound he makes. Hard to get more intense than that.

More to the point of your question though, I agree with you about the "tightness" of the MK VI. And what I used to play on the MK VI was probably facilitated by that. Much of the fast tonal switches I was doing existed by virtue of manipulating those higher overtones. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2yTIYIjUd8

I can do that on the Conn but for some reason I don't feel it the same way. I just wanna play longer, wispy-er (is that a word?) notes…

In my circles I'm not sure the MK VI is as dominant as it once was. Most cats are playing Balanced or Super Balanced Selmers. There is also a smallish group who play these old Conns. And of the musicians I play with, they seem to appreciate the darker sound.
 

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Caught Ellery with Trio New York at Cornelia St. Cafe Fri night. I don't have time to describe how much I enjoyed it. One thing that I felt at one point during the performance, after Gary's organ solo on "My Ideal" , was that I was witnessing something very intimate. It was great I almost felt a little embarassed. That was the level of communication the feeling that these guys bared their souls to the audience. It was highly inspirational.
 

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I remember talking to Ellery for maybe a couple of hours about sound when he was "on the cusp" of switching to the Conn and was resurrecting his Buescher Aristocrat. I was undergoing a similar conceptual shift, and at some point I decided that really there was nothing more important than the sound itself. I now play on Conn/Selmer BAs as a result. I started on an Aristocrat and then went to a '39 BA when I was young, and now I have come full circle again. It's strange. Ellery's words here resonate with me in a really profound way. His music is certainly something extraordinary, and an inspiration.
 
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