Friday, May 10, 2013


MIRAGE: An image formed under certain atmospheric conditions, in which objects appear to be reflected or displaced or in which nonexistent objects seem to appear.

MIRAGE: A recording of improvised music for saxophone, pedal steel guitar and double bass.  Simultaneously unpredictable and transformative.  A music that is not always what it first appears to be.

clean feed CF271CD

Ellery Eskelin - tenor saxophone
Susan Alcorn - pedal steel guitar
Michael Formanek - double bass

New release!  You can order MIRAGE directly from my website...

I’ve done a number of completely improvised recording projects over the years. “Inbetween Spaces” (with drummer Gerry Hemingway), “Every So Often” (with pianist Sylvie Courvoisier), “As Soon as Possible” (with Sylvie Courvoisier and cellist Vincent Courtois), “Ten” (an augmented version of Eskelin w/Parkins & Black), “Vanishing Point” (string trio plus vibraphone) and “Dissonant Characters” (with drummer Han Bennink).  There’s something very compelling about the process of real time interaction and communal composition that results in a music that could not be achieved by any other means or ever happen again in quite the same way.  It’s a  process that is simultaneously unpredictable and transformative.  Of course, it is mandatory that the musical chemistry be perfect and as such I feel fortunate to have been able to combine forces with so many great musicians in the US and abroad.  Some of these projects have been long term touring groups and others were put together for a one time event often based on nothing more than a hunch on my part that things would work.  

MIRAGE began as one of the latter type of propositions.  A few years back I was in Baltimore to do a week long teaching residency at Towson University.  A local musician’s organization called Out of Your Head Productions was having a one year anniversary event that same week and invited me to put together a group to present at the Windup Space in Baltimore’s Station North arts district.  They drew up a list of musicians from their collective and I immediately noticed Susan Alcorn’s name.  I had been hearing great things about Susan and the thought of improvising with a pedal steel guitarist was intriguing.  She was an obvious choice.  Bassist Michael Formanek I’ve known for many years having toured together with drummer Gerry Hemingway in the late nineties.  Mike has been teaching at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore so his availability was a big plus.  I was able to imagine the sound in my mind before we ever played and felt confident that the concert would be a success.  We recorded that first concert and I was tempted to release it on CD but I had a feeling that another chance to perform together would pay off.  That chance came a year or so later in 2011.  In Baltimore again for a second Towson University residency I presented this group in the newly built (and acoustically impressive) Fine Arts Center.  For the occasion I hired recording engineer Ed Tetreault (manager of the Recording Arts & Sciences department of the Peabody Conservatory).  In addition to our concert we did some additional recording in the hall afterwards, without the audience.  Most of the material on MIRAGE is from the after-concert portion however, the extended piece “Downburst” was performed live.

Perhaps more than any other recording project I’ve done, MIRAGE has allowed me to more fully investigate that expressive range of the saxophone that is perhaps most associated with it’s beginnings.  I want to bring that type of lyricism to the language of contemporary improvised music.  Susan Alcorn compliments this idea perfectly, her musical sonorities are simultaneously stimulating and haunting.  Mike Formanek brings a great depth and warmth to the music making for a complete group sound with this unique instrumentation.  

I'm also very pleased to have this project released by the clean feed label out of Lisbon.  They have a great catalogue of music, well worth looking into.

Here’s an excerpt from the CD: