Erik Jekabson Sextet
Sunday, October 7, 2018
Erik Jekabson's second full-length album of 2018, the aptly titled Erik Jekabson Sextet, follows on the heels of The Falling Dream, his second album with his Electric Squeezebox Orchestra big band. Shifting away from that group's kinetic, densely arranged sound, Jekabson returns to his small group, heard previously on 2017's Erik Jekabson Quintet. Joining the trumpeter once again are longtime associates guitarist Dave MacNab, saxophonist Dave Ellis, bassist John Wiitala, drummer Hamir Atwal, and percussionist John Santos. Helping grow the quintet to a sextet here is pianist Matt Clark, who brings a rich electric piano harmony to Jekabson's atmospheric compositions. As with his 2017 quintet album, the sextet date finds Jekabson exploring a sophisticated, tonally nuanced palette that evokes the expansive modal post-bop of the 1970s and albums by heavyweights like Pat Metheny, Woody Shaw, and David Liebman.
The opening "San Pablo Avenue" has a dusky, early-evening pulse, rife with electric guitar and keyboard interplay, all of which evokes a vibrant city coming alive at night. Similarly evocative is the sad-eyed "The Hills of Santa Cruz," in which Jekabson lays down a mournfully romantic theme, framed by MacNab's sparkling guitar tones and a chirping desert of percussion sounds. Elsewhere, cuts like the hushed groover "Chrysalis" and the slinky "Hive Wide," with their roiling Latin percussion-accented rhythms and probing solos, bring to mind Freddie Hubbard's funky CTI period. What's particularly compelling about Jekabson's work here, as on most of his albums, is his generous sense for crafting a group sound. While he is certainly the focal point of his sextet, he lets his bandmates stretch out and add their own distinctive sound to the proceedings. The result is an album that feels personally connected to Jekabson, his band, and the vibrant cultural landscape of the Bay Area that he so perfectly captures here.