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the epicenter of your dreams

John Escreet to release new album "the epicenter of your dreams" via Blue Room Music on June 7th

Critically acclaimed pianist adds tenor saxophone master Mark Turner to trio with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Damion Reid — a powerhouse band reflecting the thriving L.A. scene

Adventurous program includes tributes to piano heroes Andrew Hill and Stanley Cowell

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On John Escreet’s 2022 album Seismic Shift, his first-ever release in the trio format, the pianist and composer introduced a group of the rarest strength and intelligence. Joining the U.K.-born musician were two extraordinary improvisers he’d reconnected with in Los Angeles, where he’d moved from Brooklyn just prior to the pandemic in 2020: bassist Eric Revis, a veteran of the furiously swinging Branford Marsalis Quartet who also excels in avant-garde settings; and the drummer Damion Reid, whose unparalleled ability to chop up a rhythm with finesse has made him a go-to collaborator for Robert Glasper, Steve Lehman and many others.

Unsurprisingly, their dynamic music — which ranged from the tightly composed to the freely improvised, the elegant to the fierce, hitting all emotional points in between — astonished critics and audiences alike. In his review, DownBeat editor Frank Alkyer highlighted the “agility and interplay between the three,” which “makes the entirety of Seismic Shift a joyful, ‘hell, yeah’ listen. The album’s intensity pulls you in even when Escreet turns the burner down a notch.”

Such praise might lead some artists to get complacent, to hit Repeat. But Escreet has continually broadened his ideas and sonic palette throughout his career — from his many leader recordings, featuring New York jazz’s cutting-edge, to his vital role in Antonio Sanchez’s culture-melding Migration, to performing at a sold-out Hollywood Bowl with the electronic luminary Floating Points.

For Seismic Shift’s follow-up, the epicenter of your dreams, out June 7 from Blue Room Music, Escreet has expanded his very special group to include Mark Turner, among the most important and influential tenor saxophonists in jazz history. Save for Escreet, the quartet comprises Los Angeles natives who raised their profiles in New York and then returned to L.A., where a vibrant progressive jazz scene has flourished in recent years. the epicenter of your dreams stands as a document of this fertile musical environment, which Escreet calls “really broad and diverse. And not only the New York cats that have moved here, but there’s a very healthy young, local scene as well. It’s all exciting.”

Escreet has designed a program worthy of his new quartet’s sweeping versatility. Among the highlights is the opener, “call it what it is,” a fascinating harmonic and rhythmic catalyst for improvisation. “the epicenter of your dreams” reflects its title — an enigmatic through-composed voyage.

On Seismic Shift, the only non-original was Stanley Cowell’s “Equipoise,” drawn from his 1974 solo-piano masterpiece Musa: Ancestral Streams. Continuing in that vein, this time the group covers Cowell’s “departure no.1” from the same album. Escreet, who was fortunate enough to befriend this still-unsung hero before his passing in 2020, transcribed and arranged “departure” from that LP, and the result is quintessential postbop, a superb platform for Turner.

With Andrew Hill’s “erato,” Escreet pays homage to one of his most enduring inspirations, whose “compositions are kind of weird and angular,” he says. “It’s everything I aspire to — a little bit off-kilter and quirky, yet totally unique and identifiable.” Here, the band quickens the tempo of Hill’s surreal mid-’60s ballad into oblique midtempo swing. The spontaneously constructed “meltdown” entertains Escreet’s desire to blur the borders between composition and free improvisation. Throughout the set, you can hear the sound of boundaries being pushed, of unease turning into discovery. “If everyone’s comfortable all the time,” Escreet says, “it makes for boring music.”

As fresh as everything feels on the epicenter of your dreams, Escreet also upholds principles of composing and bandleading that he’s honored for many years. He strives for the “very fine balance between bringing my music and my concepts and allowing people the opportunity to shine and be themselves.” In short, he’s interested in unique and unforgettable personalities, musical and otherwise, something his quartet has in surplus. Revis projects tremendous presence, on his bass or simply walking into a room. Of Reid, Escreet says, “we spar with each other rhythmically, and I feel that Damion can always match me. Whatever I’m doing on the piano, rhythmically or energy-wise, Damion’s right there with me.”

Regarding Turner, Escreet gets visibly excited when he talks about having one of jazz improvisation’s definitive voices in his band. “I’m attracted to the original source,” he explains. “I’m attracted to the real deal. I’m not looking for someone who can play like Mark Turner.”

“Mark is transcendent,” Escreet says, homing in on the saxophonist’s Zen-like ability to embrace the beautiful mayhem of being a family man in a way that informs his utterly serious musicianship. To say it another way, Turner has found the elusive axis that connects the joy of life off the bandstand to the importance of creative focus. “We’ve had some of the deepest conversations about life and family and children, about these kinds of decisions and that human experience,” Escreet says. “It’s refreshing to see how that seeps through into the musical content.”

The pianist also recognizes that the sometimes raucous soundscapes his group conjures up aren’t aligned with Turner’s signature aesthetic of even-keeled cool-toned lyricism. “I love Mark in this context,” he says, “which is very much my world. It’s so extreme: Sometimes you can hear a pin drop and it’s really spacious, and other times it’s a wall of sound. Not necessarily something he would choose for himself, but a situation where he can totally be himself — and nothing else would work apart from him being himself.”

RELEASE DATE: June 7, 2024

Matt Merewitz / Fully Altered Media / / 215-629- 6155

Photograph by Teresa Lee
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