Thursday, May 15, 2008

Eigsti Needs to Pack His Knives and Go; Roberts Hits the Nail on the Head

Do you ever wish that Top Chef were about jazz instead of food? Well, I do. Just imagine, a bunch of young, up-and-coming jazz musicians duking it out for some sort of meaningless title... Who would come out on top? Would it be Walter Smith III, with his updates of old school hard-bop? Or would it be Robert Glasper, the brilliant young piano player who, after working with Mos Def, has perfected a mix of contemporary odd-meter R&B with older jazz? I hadn't heard of (let alone heard anything by) Matana Roberts until a few weeks ago when I read about her new "Chicago Project;" after listening to that album a couple times, I think she could be a wild-card in this kind of competition. After hearing "Let it Come to You," however, I think its time for Taylor Eigsti to get kicked out so he can go home, take what he's learned, and work on his craft.

Its not that "Let it Come to You" is a bad album; he plays well, his ideas are pretty good, and his band (Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland, and fellow prodigy Julian Lage) is great throughout. That said, after hearing Eigsti say a billion times that he doesn't want to be judged as a prodigy, he just can't stand up next to contemporaries like Glasper and Jason Moran. The problem is more conceptual than anything else; as I just said, he plays well and his ideas are pretty good. His work just isn't innovative; anyone who's heard Brad Mehldau's "Anything Goes" has heard Eigsti's take on standards. His originals, however, are pretty good (particularly the "Fall Back Plan" suite towards the end of the album) if not stellar. Eigsti has a great album in his future whenever he finds his voice as a piano player, but he just isn't there yet.

Matana Roberts' "The Chicago Project" is one of the best albums so far this year; its completely different from any of the other records from young people ("Karibu," "Prelude: To Cora," "Let it Come to You") that are getting a lot of press right now. While a large part of that has to do with influence (very few young musicians are so blatantly influenced by 60s free jazz), Roberts has a very distinctive voice. Her wide vibrato (barely heard from musicians since Albert Ayler) and her clearly AACM-influenced compositions just sound different from anything else coming out right now. Take the three "Birdhouse" tracks, for example; each one is a different duet with tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson, and the interplay between the two is practically telepathic. These totally free duets show the thought-process behind this album more than any of the composed heads; Roberts is more interested in interplay and improvisation than composed work. Highly recommended for those with curious ears.

I don't know exactly what I'm gonna have next time to be honest; maybe a review of Tom Scott's new album "Cannon Re-Loaded," or of the new reissue of Marc Feldman's "Music for Violin Alone..." Probably not a double review though, they have nothing in common. Also, as always, feel free to comment if you love Taylor Eigsti and think I can suck it! You may be wrong, but as long as the "comment" button is there, you're welcome to embarrass yourself in this forum.


Dave said...

wow - telling people that if they disagree with you, they are embarassing themselves proves what an idiot you truly are. You most definitely CAN "suck it", as you put it. Thanks for your fully ridiculous posting. You have one reader that wholeheartedly disagrees with everything you wrote. That is, if there's any other readers of your crappy blog....
I happen to be a fan of all of those artists, and I think Eigsti is as innovative as the rest of them. I've gone to see him in the Bay Area several times and it was some of the best music I've ever heard live. The next time you write your OPINION, dont tell the readers (us) that we would be stupid to disagree with you

Anonymous said...

Hey dave, he wasn't all that harsh on the album. Eigsti needs more time. He has a good album in him, this just isn't it. Also, his last comment about people embarassing themselves by disagreeing with him was sarcastic.