E_L_B

COMPOSERS: Peter Erskine
LABELS: ACT
PERFORMER: Peter Erskine (d), Nguyên Lê (g), Michel Benita (b)
CATALOGUE NO: 9289-2

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Although the most immediately arresting features of E_L_B’s sound are the extraordinary tone and texture of Nguyên Lê’s guitars, both electric and acoustic, this album – as its name suggests – is very much a group effort, compositional duties, solos and responsibility for the band’s overall approach all being shared among the three stellar participants.

Lê’s pieces are either attractive, tight and tastefully funky, somewhat reminiscent of John Scofield’s work, or slow, floating ballads infused with the sort of fragility he exploited so tellingly in his most celebrated recording, Tales from Viêt-Nam, propelled by Peter Erskine’s whispering brushwork. Erskine – a considerable composer, and leader of one of the subtlest trios in contemporary jazz – has also provided four characteristically thoughtful but cogent compositions, one the celebrated ‘Bass Desires’.

Algeria-born Michel Benita, in addition to his three pieces, also provides the band’s anchor, his big, solid bass booming out beneath Lê’s spangly curlicues of sound and blending perfectly with Erskine’s brisk delicacy.

A ‘power trio’ à la Power Tools, James Blood Ulmer bands and others E_L_B most decidedly is not – its dynamic range is far wider, its textures far more varied, its compositions far more considered – but when it does build to climaxes, Lê’s guitar screams and growls in a manner owing as much to power trios’ great inspiration Jimi Hendrix as to more overtly jazz-oriented figures.

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A confident, unfussily virtuosic album from three masters of the trio format. Chris Parker