Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mitch Kessler: Der Erlkonig

Mitch Kessler (sax, flute)
Der Erlkonig (Sun Jump Records)

John Esposito (piano)
Peter O'Brien (drums)
Ira Coleman (bass)

Working with longtime friends and fellow upstate NY musicians The John Esposito Trio, Mitch Kessler has produced a marvelous second album, Der Erlkonig (The ElfKing) (Sun Jump Records) which somehow surpasses his debut Erratica (Sun Jump Records; 2009). This is a spiritual/free jazz outing in the vein and quality of Pharoah Sanders, Eric Dolphy and Alice Coltrane; or even the soulful elements of Detroit's Tribe which featured Phil Ranelin, Marcus Belgrave and others.

Der Erlkonig, a poem written by Johann Wolfgan Von Goethe tells the story of young boy who is killed by a mysterious being while riding home with his father on horseback. It's is dark and unsettling story that leaves a lot to the imagination. Here Kessler has made the piece more haunting by delivering the poem in its traditional German. The performances "Der Erlkonig" are spectacular. The opening bassline from Coleman suggests a beat generation like journey over the next 70 minutes. And it delivers. The quartet are smokin' and make the haunting tale seem more like a journey of a higher order.

"Indo Eurasian Folksong" has all the elements of A Love Supreme-Acknowledgement with an added level of urgency. The timing and interaction between the quartet tells you that while they've only recorded a small amount of material together they are still tight and rhythmically adventurous. The floating hypnotic nature of Kessler's flute combined with Coleman's addictive bassline just underneath is sublime.

"Non Sequitur" bursts through with some wonderful improvisational exchanges between Kessler and Esposito. Coleman and O'Brien are not to be outdone as they emerge midway with an excellent yet delicate exchange that leads to a lovely closing.

"Vietnamese Waltz" closes out this session and it's a blisteringly beautiful track with excellent solo work from each musician. Kessler's playing is far-reaching, exploratory and touching all in a matter of nine minutes. This is great stuff, people.

For me, Kessler's compositions are an interesting and intricate balance of the latter works of both Coltrane's (John and Alice) and Monk. With only his second release, Der Erlkonig, Mitch Kessler has estabished himself as a soon to be dominate talent on the scene if he continues with this type of consistently strong and creative output. Mitch Kessler is an undiscovered treasure and more than worth the purchase (You can find it at Downtown Music Gallery). Enjoy.

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