Ben Perowsky

Esopus Opus

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AllMusic Review by

Drummer/composer Ben Perowsky is growing and progressing with every step, as he becomes not only a top-notch sideman but a leader in his own right. This CD for Chris Speed's Skirl label is one of the more intriguing instrumental combinations you might hear in modern jazz, with clarinetist Speed and accordion player Ted Reichman teamed with the peerless bassist Drew Gress and Perowsky. Musically diverse, the band straddles various ethnic fusion and creative improvising elements, attaining a unique sound that does not dismiss tuneful and accessible areas. Because of the individuality of Speed and Reichman, the sonic footprint of this recording is arresting and compelling. You hear funky rock-styled beats on "Key Lime," a tango sensuality during "Perolas," and exoticism via Reichman's expanding and contracting sounds on "Nem Um Talvez." Perowsky's compositions encompass jumpy cartoon modes à la Raymond Scott during the title selection and Louisiana swamp freedom on "Murnau on the Bayou," while the two-note post-John Coltrane mode piece "Present Distance" is similar to the famous composition "India" and the spatial mystery of "Red Hook" completes the ride through vastly different musical terrain. Perowsky and the quartet also explore heady versions of pop/rock icons. The Jimi Hendrix acid rock classic "Manic Depression" is rendered perfectly, but with clarinet and accordion sounding more like they belong in a Kurt Weill soundtrack. George Harrison's "Within You Without You" is also very well rendered in its original drone, raga style, while the Beatles' obscure tune "Listen" is taken from its simple melody into a free improv, whirring and wheezing tone. As different and accessible as this recording is, the sound created by Perowsky and his group might take some getting used to, but it's worth the time spent. Esopus Opus comes highly recommended, and is the best batch yet from the drummer, a name you should get to know from here on out.

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