Ellery Eskelin & Andrea Parkins
Eremite Records MTE-02 CD
Eskelin tenor saxophone
Joey Barron drums
Rod Keith vocals
- More or Less the Truth (3:05)
- Mary Jane's Dilemma (5:11)
- The Cocktail Hour (1:41)
- Flamingo (2:16)
- With Bells and Drums (9:08)
- Yummy Love (2:45)
- Sleight of Hand (2:03)
- Behind the Curtain (4:29)
- Green Bermudas (3:29)
- Scratch (1:00)
- Untitled Two (9:25)
- This Warm Secret Dial (11:59)
11 June 1996, NYC
producers: Eskelin & Michael Ehlers
engineer: Jon Rosenberg
onions: Dalison Darrow
fifty-seven cracked minutes of tenor and sampler woozery. includes radical extensions of the 'song-poem' form pioneered by eskelin's father, the legendary rodd keith. one of the more resolutely 'out' recordings you are likely to hear, really.
Ellery Eskelin & Green Bermudas on THIS AMERICAN LIFE
Throughout his career, tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin has proven willing to mix his bluesy, jazz-rooted horn playing with sounds that are more foreign to jazz, and Green Bermudas may be his most daring effort in this regard. Accordionist/keyboardist Andrea Parkins lays the foundation here with samples of bagpipes, bells, Eskelin's saxophone, and, on four of the tracks, the bizarre, MOR-pop "song poems" of his father, the legendary Rodd Keith. She often deals these samples out in surprisingly large chunks, leaving Eskelin alone to wrestle with them for minutes at a time, although she is not afraid to process and tinker with them, either (see "Mary Jane's Dilemma"). Eskelin responds by alternately letting out dense flurries of notes/sound by playing along with the harmonies that drift by courtesy of Parkins' keyboard or the aforementioned pop song fragments, or by simply laying out and not playing at all. The duo is very patient, not requiring the pieces to climax or resolve in any specific manner (if at all), and as a result, the music feels very relaxed and unforced, despite its frequent strangeness. There is certainly an air of mischief when Parkins sets her partner up with a goofy, banal pop song to play along with, then proceeds to warp it almost beyond recognition ("Yummy Love"), but there is also a serious angle that shows up on "This Warm Secret Dial," for example, which contains an oddly touching "duet" between Eskelin and his father. It's not for all tastes, but this is a unique, rewarding album and is well worth exploring by folks willing to follow these musicians into the deep end.
-- William York, Allmusic.com
Tenorist Eskelin has a real talent for taking the potentially maudlin and giving it real sentiment through, of all things, irony. In this way, he is the Douglas Sirk of jazz, and sampler/puckish sound-terrorist Andrea Parkins of his regular ensemble shares his sense of melancholy mischief (Eskelin's employer, the drummer Joey Baron, also guests on one track). Thanks to the sampler, the duo is any number of musicians or moods, sometimes playing out of time, or at intentional cross-purposes.
A few pieces feature a manipulation of songs performed by Eskelin's father, the late composer-for-hire Rodd Keith. Keith's MSR recording studios advertised in the back of populist magazines such as the National Enquirer, soliciting doggerel of the general public, and turning it into very quickly written and somewhat crazed pop songs, which it would press into a bunch of singles to sell back to the "poet", now filled brimming with ambition. What was created was a sort of unduplicable outsider Pop art. Eskelin and Parkins take that poetry turned into music, and turn that music back into poetry.What might at first appear mere mockery shows itself, through the father-son bond, to be deeply touching.
Yet it is exactly "deep" feeling which is under the microscope. "(With Drums and Bells)" features exactly that -- if one didn't know better, one might assume one was hearing a rare BYG Black Power recording. But when Eskelin's transcendental lugubriousness comes twisting in, skirting over the time, it calls exactly how one IS supposed to feel into question. His solo take on the standard "Flamingo" sounds as if it comes out of a transistor radio you've hidden under your blankets along with your lonesome body. "Flamingo" isn't just touching, it accesses the history of touchingess -- unlike many in NY's Downtown circle, Eskelin and Parkins play with feeling because of their brains, not in spite of them.
-- David J. Strauss, CD Music & Arts
If your idea of music is a squawking, screeching tenor paired with utterly dissimilar background keyboard samples, then Eskelin and Parkins are for you. These 12 selections are a tribute to cacophony. Need I say that they are all originals? Mercifully, a few numbers, 'The Cocktail Hour,' 'Scratch' and 'Sleight of Hand' are brief, between one and two minutes. 'The Cocktail Hour' sounds like the buzzing of a thousand demented insects. If the instrumental numbers don't accelerate a descent into madness, the vocals on 'Mary Jane's Dilemma' and 'Yummy Love' should do the trick. 'Flamingo' is intended as a ballad, I think, while 'Behind the Curtain' suggests the machinations of a deranged wizard -- an appropriate metaphor for this release. The promotional buzz for Green Bermudas calls it a testament to the ingenuity and weirdness of the human spirit and instructs the listener to dig it. I don't think so.
-- Marcela Breton, Jazztimes