Andy Ezrin, I Was Here Review

Andy Ezrin's I Was Here: A New Jazz Testament


Andy Ezrin, I Was Here Review

Andy Ezrin’s I Was Here: A New Jazz Testament

by Ferell Aubre

Andy-Ezrin-CDThe spirits of legends loom large within the canon of recordings, a truth that resonates profoundly for pianists. Their playing has told stories spanning a century, engaging in a dialogue that bridges past and present, emotion and expression. Andy Ezrin’s album I Was Here adds another distinctive voice to the conversation, offering his bold declaration of artistic identity. With this album, Ezrin skillfully navigates the tightrope that reflects a deep engagement with the genre’s roots, while embodying the spirit of exploration that defines jazz at its core.

Through I Was Here, Andy Ezrin showcases the piano as a cornerstone of jazz- a conduit of exploration and expression. His approach melds technical precision with profound emotional depth, casting the piano as a storyteller and bridging the diverse landscapes of jazz, from the quintessential American to the nuanced European traditions. Ezrin’s playing, characterized by a blend of finesse and intensity, underscores the piano’s pivotal role in jazz. It confirms its ability to weave elegance and complexity together, enriching the genre’s multifaceted dialogue.

Ezrin has assembled an ensemble of distinguished musicians to navigate the dynamic interplay of styles showcased in I Was Here. The rhythm section, consistently anchored by John Patitucci’s versatile bass across all tracks but one, features the talents of either Marcus Gilmore or Ari Hoenig behind the drums, each bringing their unique flair to the mix. Randy Brecker’s trumpet graces two tracks with its iconic sound, while saxophonist Donny McCaslin’s presence on eight selections adds depth and complexity to the album’s texture. This collective of artists breathes life into Ezrin’s compositions, exemplifying collaborative excellence as they seamlessly merge the diverse stylistic nuances of American and European jazz. The richly layered sound offers listeners elegance and instrumental diversity, as the ensemble’s cohesive unity and individual brilliance create an engaging auditory experience.

The album kicks off with “Grapes,” a piece that immediately sets the tone for Ezrin’s exploration of contemporary jazz landscapes. Here, the exciting piano voicings intertwine with the soulful melodies of the trumpet and tenor saxophone. Ezrin’s compositions have a balance of written and improvised parts. Ezrin, McCaslin, and Brecker deliver outstanding solos, creating a dialogue between traditional and modern structures. Like the album itself, this track is a testament to the ensemble’s ongoing conversation, a narrative that each player is keenly aware of and contributes to the flow of the ongoing discussion.

In tracks like “This Is What It Is” and “Greenwoman,” Ezrin expands his presentation of various jazz styles, blending elements of American jazz, European jazz, and even classical music with traditional jazz colors and textures. This synthesis is an enjoyable stylistic choice but a reflection of Ezrin’s understanding of jazz as a living, breathing entity that is constantly absorbing and transforming. In these seamless blends of genres, Ezrin’s unique voice shines through, offering a fresh perspective on what jazz has to offer in the 21st century.

“Luna” and “Siren Song” are poignant examples of Ezrin’s narrative deepness. Through his lyrical piano solos and the sensitive interplay with his bandmates, he crafts stories that are personal and universal in their rhythmic allure, inviting listeners to find pieces of their own stories within the melodies. This narrative strength is a hallmark of Ezrin’s playing, showcasing his belief in music as a medium for connection and storytelling.

In “Snowfall,” Ezrin, alongside Patitucci on bass and Hoenig on drums, crafts a performance that is a testament to the ensemble’s synergistic chemistry. The track is a harmonious blend of gentleness and rhythmic complexity, showcasing the chemistry between Ezrin’s piano and Fender Rhodes with Patitucci’s acoustic bass and Hoenig’s drums, creating a delicate and dynamically shifting soundscape. Elements of Bach’s influence are discernible in Ezrin’s approach to voice-leading, highlighting his ability to weave classical elegance with jazz’s expressive freedom. Patitucci’s solo, performed on an acoustic-electric six-string bass, introduces a new texture to the piece, enriching the overall sonic experience. “Snowfall” embodies the dialogic essence of jazz, as each musician’s contribution enhances the narrative, offering listeners a multifaceted auditory journey.

“Cascades,” a solo piano piece, serves as the album’s epilogue, inviting introspection and reflection. Unlike the collaborative dynamics throughout the album, “Cascades” focuses on the singular voice of Ezrin, showcasing his vocabulary and touch at the piano. Through a series of catchy melodic motifs and harmonic developments, he guides the listener through an intimate exploration of sound and emotion. Ezrin’s touch on the piano is tender and commanding, and his use of dynamics paints a vivid landscape of tones and textures. The piece’s shifting tempos flow naturally, mirroring the ebb and flow of a cascading stream. In this solo performance, Ezrin engages in a different kind of dialogue—one that transcends the need for words or other instruments, connecting directly with the listener’s inner landscape.

I Was Here displays Ezrin’s virtuosic talent as an innovative composer, performer, and band leader. This project invites us to listen to music as a language and not as a genre, a language constantly evolving and expanding but always creative. This album successfully connects the elegance of piano legends with the many shades of jazz in today’s modern jazz language.


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