Daniele D'agaro - "Chicago Overtones"
David Liebman & Ellery Eskelin - "Different But The Same"

[hathut, www.hathut.com]

You can tell which particular musician hathut guru Werner X. Uehlinger is obsessed with at the moment simply by observing the patterns of the last dozen releases. It's no surprise then that these two CDs celebrate not one, but three of Werner's latest music loves.

Italian saxophonist Daniele D'Agaro has sung his way into my heart just over a year ago when he released "Strandjutters" - a trio record with Ernst Glerum and Han Bennink. While his tones were edgy, they were also playful and quite agreeable to the ear. The quartet on "Chicago Overtones" is made up of that city's "natives" - Jeb Bishop on trombone, bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Robert Barry. It's Jeb Bishop's robust trombone work that adds spice and excitement to the record. Hearing him carry on a long-winded conversation with the leader is a real joy to my ears. In places, his trombone is even [dare I say this] melancholic and overtly sweet. [Check out the divine cover of Ellington's "Melancholia", which closes the disc.] Percussionist Robert Barry and bassist Kent Kessler carry the weight of this project with real stamina. The support they lend to the wind section is muscular, without being macho. [Compare their work with the rhythm section on "Strandjutters". On that session, Bennink seemed to be having too much fun to really concentrate on the music at hand. As usual, quirky personality won over the needs of the collective.] Finally, Daniele strikes me as a player that is best heard in a scenario where he can carry on interesting conversations with another wind player. His lines are majestically swirling in and out of place and he carries the quartet in directions HE wants to go. If you're looking for a session that highlights the talents of an intense collective, "Chicago Overtones" is one place to start.

The next session of hathut favourites features the duo of tenor saxophonists David Liebman and Ellery Eskelin. I have mixed feelings on this duo as it was probably producer-enforced, rather than glued by shared love for a common musical goal. Then again, the two players "probably" share much of the same common ground in terms of music. One way of telling them apart is by listening closely: Liebman is in the left channel, while Eskelin is found in the right. To make things fair, Liebman brings in bassist Tony Marino, while Eskelin brings along percussionist Jim Black. Listening to this session over and over again, I couldn't help but notice that the players were concerned with simple pleasantries. Melody is king in their world. They cover everyone from Tadd Dameron ["Gnid" and "Hot House"], Wayne Shorter ["Vonetta"], Cole Porter ["What is This Thing Called Love"] and even Lee Konitz ["Subconscious-Lee"]. Sure, there are a few originals scattered in the program, but I'm sure this session was not programmed with those in mind. Maybe there are a few sections when the two tenors try to outdo each other [check out Liebman's composition "The Gun Wars" as evidence] but overtly so, these two are simply interested in playing it straight and doing things by the book. Don't mistake this for an improvised blow-out-from-hell. Rather, Liebman met Eskelin on a lovely spring afternoon and documented a recording session, where both simply played their parts and left the building. In fact, these two players are different, and their paths probably won't cross again.

Tom Sekowski

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