Personnel: Peter Epstein (soprano saxophone, alto saxophone); Larry Engstrom (trumpet); David Ake (piano).
Audio Mixer: Tom Gordon.
Recording information: Imirage Sound Lab, Sparks, NV (01/19/2008-01/20/2008).
Photographer: Chad McCullough .
EEA are a trio of jazz faculty members at the University of Nevada, Reno, consisting of saxophonist Peter Epstein, trumpeter Larry Engstrom, and pianist David Ake. The lack of additional rhythm instruments gives the players both plenty of freedom and responsibility, which they handle well. The trio's three group improvisations stand out with potent interplay, with the first sounding as if it could be used as a film soundtrack. Ake composed six selections, including the haunting ballad "The Dark," blending Epstein's soprano and Engstrom's trumpet in shining ensembles, as well as showcasing them individually, backing them with sparse chords. "Time Falls (Like Snow)" is also a somber, bittersweet affair, while the playful "Birthday Boy" bounds with seemingly endless energy. The trio also interprets two gems by Duke Ellington. The elegant "African Flower" (premiered on the famous Money Jungle album with Max Roach and Charles Mingus) features muted trumpet and alto sax, retaining the delicate air of the original while taking it into new territory, giving it a bit of a darker flavor. "Heaven" is one of the less frequently played Ellington works, but not for its lack of beauty; the trio's heartfelt arrangement shimmers. ~ Ken Dryden