Erskine/Danielsson/Taylor: As It Is (ECM 1594)

As It Is

John Taylor piano
Palle Danielsson double-bass
Peter Erskine drums
Recorded September 1995 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

In this follow-up date to 1994’s Time Being, Peter Erskine, Palle Danielsson, and John Taylor hone their salute to the Bill Evans and Paul Bley schools in their most transcendent short story collection yet. Each of these three narrators lends nuance to the arc. Taylor, for one, embodies a sense of perpetual motion quite different from that of Erskine, who in “The Lady In The Lake” evokes with his brushes a quiet train ride. Where the pianism is impressionistic and rounded, the drums are precise and crisp. So, too, in “Esperança,” which through shifting seasons reveals a brocade of sentimental journeys. Danielsson, for another, is more than the tuneful support of “Glebe Ascending,” though even in this album opener we get intimations of the interactivity to follow. His engaging filament runs through tunes like “Woodcocks” and “Touch Her Soft Lips And Part,” leaving a trail of footsteps alternating in charcoal and pastel. And what of Erskine? Look to “Episode” for your answer. This urgent piece hits the ground running and stumbles through city streets, whispering of metal and wind and skin. I submit to the defense also “Romeo & Juliet,” which like the classic play begins in innocence before culminating in Erskine’s tragic catharsis of a solo.

As It Is eschews the formulaic, instead kneading instruments and gestures into uniform dough. Just when Taylor seems to launch into an extended solo passage, Danielsson rises from the deep to overtake it even as Erskine throws a commentative thread through every loophole. The resultant tumble is fluid and soft. Despite the breadth of its sweep, the music operates at a microscopic level. This is top-flight jazz, recorded, composed, and packaged with an artisan’s endearment.

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