Reviews of Siwula – Plaks, “Time In”
Time In reunited Siwula and pianist Eric Plaks, who hadn’t collaborated since the late ‘90s. They are hand-in-glove from the first tune, “Einstein’s Train (Passing)”, where rapid-fire single notes perfectly complement strident tenor. On “Sydney Bechet Types a Letter to His Mistress in the Middle of the Night” the bluesiness of soprano snakes through pulsing block chords and undulating arpeggios. Siwula puts some burlesque in his tenor on “The Ecstasy of Rain on the Window”, where he and Plaks dive in like prospectors mining new territory. There’s a moment on “Descent to Destiny” where the delightfully splintered narrative slides into a funhouse mirror version of “Summertime”. The workmanlike core and jolting lyricism of “When Gangsters Needed Running Boards” sounds like a riff on Raymond Scott’s “Manhattan Minuet”. Plaks uses robust chords on “Stars Are Falling in a Brooklyn Diner” to push Siwula’s streams of consciousness on soprano. “Glorious Miracle” is a gospel tune where tenor evokes a fierce sermon about a battle against Satan. After the story is told and the battle is won, song and album alight triumphantly.
BLAISE SIWULA [ts/ss/as] and ERIC PLAKS [p] have collaborated in duo on a 8/26/15 recording called TIME IN [No Frills Music nfm 0010]. The music [46:47] here is all spontaneous composition—in other words free music. One of the 7 compositions is “Sydney [sic] Bechet Types A Letter To His Mistress In The Middle Of The Night”. The fact that it mentions Bechet is appropriate as Siwula has one of the most distinct sax sounds in jazz today. And like Bechet it is marked by a tremolo broad enough to roller skate on. Plaks does more than pound the piano and is closer to Matt Shipp than Cecil Taylor. These two seem pretty in tune with each other as they trade leads gracefully throughout and on the final tune, “Glorious Miracle”, where they play a sort of lullaby which turns into a romp. A quick 47 minutes but long enough. A CDR.
Review of The Shrine Big Band, “Swamp Music”
CD Review in The New York City Jazz Record by Donald Elfman in the October, 2015 issue (page 31):
From Gapplegate Music Review, published June 23rd, 2015:
Review of “Some Ones”
From Gregory Applegate Edwards’ blog, Gapplegate Music Review, published May 1st, 2015:
From writer Robert Iannopollo in the April/May/June 2016 issue of Cadence Jazz Magazine:
Eric Plaks is a pianist with a broad sense of the history of the instrument. His quintet on Some Ones sounds right there with him. That’s evident from the first notes of the opening track, the standard “42nd Street”, a song usually taken at mid-tempo but here taken uptempo from the start. A blustery tenor courtesy of Don Chapman takes the lead, the rhythm section falls in and they’re off. Plaks’ comping is all over the place, starting fairly tame before blasting out in multiple directions. It’s an invigorating opener and Plaks and his band deliver on the promise.
Of course all is not bluster and energy. There’s a rather sweet rendition of “All The Things You Are” performed in 3/4 with a breezy solo by Plaks and some snappy brushwork from drummer [Jon] Panikkar. There’s also an unusual take on Duke Ellington’s “African Flower”. It’s one of Ellington’s later compositions and is usually performed as a owing ballad. But here Plaks has re-arranged it so that rhythmiclly, it sounds like a distant cousin to Ellington’s “Black And Tan Fantasy”. Peppered throughout the program are little “miniature” pieces that are duets between Plaks and drummer Panikkar. Here one gets a sense of where Plaks is coming from. There’s a strong influence of Cecil Taylor ca. early 1960s. This is especially true of “Miniature Rain”. But Plaks is not merely aping Taylor’s lines. One can feel there’s more, including the lineage stretching back from Taylor through Monk and back to Ellington as a piano player. This is especially evident in Plaks’ unorthodox comping.
Some Ones is a solid recording and is well worth checking out. This is a strong quintet but the recording is from 2008. One wonders what they sound like now.
Review of “Live at Bronx Community College”
From Gapplegate Music Review, published June 5th, 2015: