WBGO Radar

John Escreet: Sabotage And Celebration

Cover art for John Escreet's CD "Sabotage And Celebration."

Pianist John Escreet knows a thing or two about sabotage, and his compositions reveal an emerging voice to celebrate.

Sabotage and Celebration, Escreet's newest effort for Whirlwind Recordings, is set for release October 15th.  Hear it now, in its entirety, on WBGO.ORG/RADAR. 

Born in the UK, Escreet moved to New York in 2006 and and finished his masters' degree at the Manhattan School of Music in September 2008, in the midst of an economic meltdown. Timing is everything.

“It’s my first moment in the real world,” says Escreet in an interview on WBGO's The Checkout.  “I’m a jazz musician in New York. The economy crashes in a big way. No one’s got any money.  It’s possibly the worst time to ever be graduating, and certainly the worst time to be a jazz musician in those economic terms of the industry.” 

Thankfully, he maintained his focus. The performances and writing on this – Escreet's fifth solo recording – are sharp.

The core of Sabotage and Celebration is a quintet with saxophonists David Binney and Chris Potter, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Jim Black.

The band recorded on November 7th, 2012 – the day after the reelection of President Barack Obama. “That’s what the title refers to actually,” says Escreet.  “Attempted voter sabotage.  Voter ID laws. Long lines at polling stations.  The celebration was the outcome. Even though, in my opinion, that’s not the greatest result, but the best of two bad choices.” 

Natural sabotage also nearly ruined the plan.  Hurricane Sandy struck New York, and the city was shuttered for a week.  Subways flooded.  Buses were suspended. “There was nothing to do,” says Escreet.  “I couldn’t move around Brooklyn easily.  So I just stayed home in my dressing gown and practiced and composed.  The music that I considered to be the best material happened to be composed during that week.”

The band only had one rehearsal, and two planned shows became one, due to storm complications. But the performances bear no marks of haste, or incomplete ideas.  But Escreet wanted more - he added strings, brass, guitar, vocals, and even harpsichord in post-production. 

“My initial thought was to just get some good music with those musicians and come out with the best result possible,” he says.

“I love to have a bunch of raw material - guys in the studio just playing their asses off.  I didn’t want to dress it up because it lacked anything.  I just wanted to expand on what a jazz album could potentially be.” 

That kind of thinking, and this kind of listening, are worthy of celebration.

     - Josh Jackson, WBGO VP of content

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