The Secret Museum is one of Ellery Eskelin's best, most inventive, and downright funniest records. The jazz saxophonist strays quite far from his usual genre, navigating in experimental waters somewhere between new jazz, rock, and circus music. Drummer Jim Black can be quite jocular when given the freedom to do so, but the real surprise here is Andrea Parkins. Her accordion brings a feeling of the circus (and she proves to be resourcefully playful), while her use of the sampler takes the music further away from "traditional" jazz -- even traditional new jazz. One must hear the treatment Monk's "We See" gets to fully understand the direction Eskelin takes on this CD; the first statement of the theme is played in unison with only a cymbal stroke to be found between the notes, as if the melody has been stripped from its jazz context. The drums then kick in -- with a '60s rock square 4/4 pattern. There are also two pieces by Eugene Chadbourne in the set. Everything else is Eskelin's; his pieces are thoroughly written and include an abundance of stop and go. Every musical idiom is subverted and deconstructed with passion and good humor. The compositions take more importance than the saxophonist, but the latter gets his moments to shine; the solo on "You'll Know When You Get There..." will satisfy any of his fans. Some people will probably criticize this "devious" album but, honestly, it feels like a breath of fresh air and reaffirms Eskelin's position as a true creator. The Secret Museum was recorded in the studio during a European tour. The CD sleeve includes excerpts from Eskelin's tour diary -- a nice addition. This edition is limited to 3,000 copies.
AllMusic Review by François Couture