Earprint is comprised of two of the sacred pairings of jazz: bass plus drums, trumpet plus saxophone. Both relationships have towering legacies in jazz and no shortage of literature from the last century. One might even be cynically tempted to think that the jazz quartet format is complete, oversaturated, overdone–that the party’s over.
Not so, and this album is proof. EASY LISTENING treats cutting-edge modern jazz not so much as a style, but as a lens through which we can see and hear more music. It reinforces the way that jazz happily digests contemporary music and that any musical material can be made cool and sophisticated, that any feeling can be related to the blues.
Blues is an important thread for Earprint, even more than might appear at first glance. The streams of both rock and jazz, the two major descendants of the blues, flow into their aesthetic. The rough energy of Nirvana meets the transcendent progressivism of Mark Turner; psychedelic tinges of Jimi Hendrix recolor the counterpoint of Thelonious Monk. Hot meets cold; sweet, sour, salty, and bitter coexist. Blues is music where opposites join, where contradictions relax and paradoxes thrive, and such is the nature of Earprint.
The dual frontmen express the first paradox: How can two voices seem so perfectly matched when their approaches are so drastically different? When trumpeter Tree Palmedo and saxophonist-clarinetist Kevin Sun play together, their sounds fuse. Pay extra attention to how they milk dissonant harmonic intervals: Some of the most glorious moments on the album are when smooth consonant lines fracture into glassy dissonances. Yet, as soloists, their strategies are nearly opposites.
Palmedo is a melodist, first and foremost. Every detail of his playing seems to melt the brass of the trumpet into sweet, thick honey. He really sings through the horn, and the songs are delivered with simultaneous confidence and tenderness. Sun, by contrast, is a conceptualist and a chameleon. Whereas Palmedo wears his heart on his sleeve, Sun conceals his hand, deploying new ideas one at a time, deliberately and strategically. He feints then ripostes, floating and penetrating like a sly martial artist. A signature sound of Earprint is the juxtaposition of a beautifully urgent trumpet solo with a bewildering multidimensional saxophone solo. Greater than the sum of its parts, indeed.
The rhythm section embodies another paradox: bassist Simón Willson is pure hot propulsion, the combustion engine of the band, while drummer Dor Herskovits offers a cool liquid texture on top, like a river shimmering as it crashes down the banks. How do these forces synergize so well without cancelling each other out? Part of the secret is the strength of the compositions, all of which are built in delicious, interlocking layers. For most of the album, Willson hums along in a self-confident groove, freeing up Herskovits to juggle textures of momentum, humor, and mystery. These two swing, they rock, they support, and they surprise. They improvise with subtlety yet without inhibition. Willson and Herskovits possess startling versatility and no stylistic inertia; one gets the sense they could play anything at any time and make it feel great every time.
The excellence of its individual members aside, Earprint is notably a quartet of its time. Instead of just the usual variety of jazz styles, on EASY LISTENING, we hear a mix of rainy grunge, bright Nintendo quirkiness, mystifying academic constructions, and earnest anthems. These young men had the privilege of growing up in an era where it was easier than ever before to consume great volumes of music, and it shows. By the climax of the album, the title track, we have experienced a massive web of musical connections, ranging from satisfyingly natural to delightfully non-obvious. I urge you to listen to this music actively: Prod it with your ears, ask questions, constantly reevaluate your expectations. Earprint rewards the curious listener and takes them on a journey that is both vast and quick. This is the magic of smart, creative jazz. EASY LISTENING burns bright, an honor and a privilege to enjoy.
released October 18, 2019
Recorded by Matt Hayes at Wellspring Sound, Acton, MA on June 30, 2018 - Mixed by Lim Wei - Mastered by Eivind Opsvik - Produced by Earprint - Cover art by Jackson Epstein - Design by Diane Zhou - Liner notes by Jacob Shulman - Total length: 44:36
Thanks to: All our parents, Matt, Lim, Eivind, Jackson, Diane, Jacob, Jason Byrne, and Randy Toboggan.
With an ear aimed firmly toward the underground, Earprint is a four-part chordless creative collective who make music that
is at least nominally for listening. Though they’re not out to save the world, or even modern jazz, they aim to at least turn a head or two with their aggressively melodic, shamelessly youthful approach....more