Esthesis Quartet is made up of four accomplished musicians and educators who met at various festivals, conventions, and sessions around the USA (there are brief bios at the end of this post after the video clip that accompanies the press release). Time Zones is the second album put out by this quartet, their first album, the eponymous Esthesis Quartet, was released in 2021.
The melody of ‘Blue Light’ comes in after a rich, resonant bass introduction from Emma Dayhuff. The tune, by Dawn Clement, represents the dimming lights of the small hours when everything quietens down. Having said that, this is not a quiet number as the conversation between drums and flute seems, to me, quite animated and great to listen into. Bass and piano calm things down in the latter section of the piece but the flute is still there, floating above making its voice heard.
‘Brush Fire’ starts gently and steadily grows, much as a fire would. As the energy develops so does the volume, the number of notes, and the percussive nature of the playing. There is a wildness to the sound but it is not out of control and, of course, this fire does burn out but in a fast fade that I felt was out of kilter with the overall arc of the tune – a very minor quibble. Dawn Clement sings on her composition ‘New Yorker’, which was inspired by the poem ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ by contemporary poet Megan Fernandes. Clement’s voice is light, bright and clear. The accompaniment from flute and piano works very well as does Tina Raymond’s drumming. This track makes for an interesting break in musical style without jarring in terms of feel.
The standout track for me is ‘Hollywood’ with its feisty opening, vibrant flute sound, and wonderful piano section from Dawn Clement. Emma Dayhuff plays some great bass lines and Tina Raymond gives us a very good drum solo that sits in nicely within the tune. The podcast ‘Serial’ inspired track five of the same name. According to the press release pack, “the bass line is reminiscent of theme songs from 1960s television detective shows like Peter Gunn” and having heard a number of artists draw on that particular show for inspiration I can confirm the statement. This was the most challenging track on the album for me due largely to the way the band brought the number to a close. The melody, the feel of the piece and how it tied in so well with the crime thriller genre is excellent, however, it just all got a little too frenetic for me towards the end.
Nilsson’s ‘First Light’ captures the gentle moments immediately after waking and before the weight of the world intrudes on one’s consciousness. It was written to hold onto and extend those moments of beauty and peace and it does it so well. The flute of Elsa Nilsson ushers in the ‘First Light’ before the bass and piano take over with an exceptionally well phrased extended section before the flute returns with the most delightful melody. This is a prodigious piece of pastoral style contemporary jazz writing that only really reveals itself through repeated listening – preferably by means of headphones.
‘Getting Through’ is performed at pace and with an energy that might suggest that the tune’s title really should be ‘Pushing Through’. The rhythm section drives this tune with the flute of Emma Nilsson playing the melody with the same sense of purpose. This is a great blend of the more contemporary jazz sound of the flute with the more straight-ahead jazz sound of the rhythm section and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
The press release finished with this paragraph:
Noteworthy in the male dominated field of jazz academia, there are only six women across the country [USA] who are department heads of jazz programs. Two of the six are in Esthesis Quartet. Gender aside, the high level of musicianship and commitment to spontaneous creativity makes Esthesis Quartet a formidable musical force and Time Zones an eminently satisfying project for aficionados of contemporary improvisatory music.Mouthpiecemusic.com
And I can not think of anything to counter that final sentence so I will will happily leave this post with that ending.
Musicians: Elsa Nilsson – flute; Dawn Clement – piano & vocal; Emma Dayhuff – bass; Tina Raymond – drums.
Tracklist: 1. Blue Light. 2. Brush Fire. 3. The New Yorker. 4. Hollywood. 5. Serial. 6. First Light. 7. Getting Through.
Compositions by Elsa Nilsson (6,7), Dawn Clement (1, 3, 4), Tina Raymond (2,5)
Time Zones is out on the ears&eyes Record label.
Flautist Elsa Nilsson hails from Gothenburg, Sweden, but has been living in Brooklyn, NYC, for over a decade. She has released seven albums as a leader and is currently an adjunct professor at The New School College of Performing Arts.
Pianist, vocalist, and composer Dawn Clement is one of the most sought-after musicians working today. She has recorded six albums as a leader and is the recipient of the CMA Performance Plus grant to compose for Esthesis Quartet. Clement is the Area Coordinator of the Jazz and American Improvised Music Department at Metropolitan State University of Denver, a programme founded by the late Ron Miles.
Emma Dayhuff is the most recent bassist to graduate from the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance in Los Angeles. She is only the fifth woman ever to participate in the prestigious programme and has performed around the world with many top jazz artists. Currently residing in Chicago, she has conducted master classes in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Cuba, and Australia.
Los Angeles-based Tina Raymond is an accomplished drummer, composer, bandleader, and educator. The Director of Jazz Studies at California State University Northridge, Raymond received DownBeat Magazine’s Educator Achievement Award in 2020. She is president-elect of California Alliance for Jazz and has toured the US, Europe and Asia as a leader and side woman.