John Esposito
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John Esposito

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"Down Blue Marlin Road"

New York State native and pianist John Esposito attended SUNY Albany as a composition major before spending several years there as the house pianist at the Gemini Jazz cafe. There he worked with J.R. Monterose and Nick Brignola in addition to leading his own jazz group before moving to New York City in 1980. Among the artists he’s worked with there include Pharoah Sanders, Dave Holland, Roswell Rudd, Dave Douglas, Franklin Kiermyer and Eric Person, among others. Today Esposito is on the faculty of Bard College where he teaches ensembles, jazz theory, repertory, and advanced composition techniques classes.

Recorded in 2003 and released in 2006 on Esposito’s own SunJump record label, Down Blue Marlin Road is a collection of reharmonized and rearranged jazz standards along with three original compositions, all done in the standard jazz piano trio format. Accompanied by bassist Ira Coleman and drummer Peter O’Brien, the trio plays with drive and energy on the up-tempo numbers and taste and style on the ballads.

One of the highlights is “Soul,” a reworking of the Heyman and Green standard “Body And Soul.” O’Brien’s deft brush work with double time punctuations, along with Coleman’s great bass statements which are interjected into melodic gaps, make this one of the better recordings of this piece ever set to disc. They don’t just go through the motions, they work to make the piece a singular ensemble statement.

Esposito’s reworking of some of the pieces results in the creation of some interesting sounds. “Autumn,” a backwards rendition of “Autumn Leaves,” is especially interesting. It is beyond doubt a totally different piece, and works extremely well. Esposito’s understanding of harmonic language is complete and aids in the recastings. While the liner notes state Esposito doesn’t respect all standards equally, mostly because he’s “sick and tired of being asked to play them,” you wouldn’t know it from his trio’s renditions of the each tune’s extrapolations.

O’Brien shines on the reworking of “I’ll Remember April,” here entitled “April.” He shifts back and forth between three and four with such a smooth yet determined precision most would never know he’s doing it. Esposito is no slouch in the technique department either. His sure fingers and excellent touch, in addition to lightening quick abilities when needed and called for, as in “Red,” help to make this disc better than standard fare.

Overall this is a good recording that features, as its main point, extended harmonic reharmonizations and novel approaches to the usual standard fare. The end result is an interesting approach to the pieces all jazz musicians grow up learning, and for that alone this disc is highly recommended to students of the art. - jazzreview.com


"Down Blue Marlin Road"

John Esposito is unquestionably a tinkerer of jazz standards, morphing, deconstructing and modifying them for his own, and the listeners delight. This pianist, with distinct cues from McCoy Tyner, reinvents well-known fare on this CD, generally stripping down titles to a single word, and reharmonizing the melody lines beyond recognition unless you listen closely. For the casual fan this will involve a bit of work, but those who do know these tunes as originally done, you will discover a keen sense of rediscovery and freshness within Esposito's ten digits. He splits "It Was Just..." and "Of Those Things" into an energetic display of virtuosity and a back halved solo projection respectively, while the "one" is cleverly replaced by "9" in 9/8 time. Tyner's presence is obvious from the start on "Beloved," a modal skittish spray of chords, fleet single lines and harmonic flourishes. "Red" is an offshoot of Charlie Parker's "Red Cross," the title track an arpeggiated and off-minor harmonic romp based in the well worn "On Green Dolphin Street," and "April" is a jumping waltz interpolation of "April In Paris." The wit, wisdom and downright sarcasm of Esposito is startling, and a talent to behold throughout this project. Check out the easy solo treatment of "How Deep Is The Ocean" retitled simply "Ocean," or the simpler but intricate adaptation of "Autumn In New York" dubbed "Autumn." With bassist Ira Coleman and drummer Peter O'Brien, Esposito either maniacally or thoughtfully throws down these chestnuts, reconfigures them to his own taste and seasoning, and adds a virtuosity seldom heard in players interpreting jazz standards. A bold conception and execution to be sure, and with band mates that can hold up their end quite well, this recording is hopefully one of many to come from a brilliant player who deserves wider attention. ~ Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide - All Music Guide


"The Blue People"

John Esposito is an exciting mainstream progressive jazz piano player. He's always offering lucid, forward-thinking, rhythmically propelling ideas, and displays the right mix of moxie and taste. For this effort he delves into the modern hard bop to post-bop arena, with no small flourishes of the music Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, John Coltrane, and Art Blakey propagated in the '60s. But Esposito has updated those styles with a complex set of charts, all of his own doing, that require close listening tools. Pay full attention to hear the street smarts and imagination Esposito utilize to make all of this music come alive. Rising star trumpeter Greg Glassman and veteran alto saxophonist Eric Person deserve much credit in taking Esposito's charts, running with them, and adding their own personal flair, distinctive tones, and textures. This is not easy music, but not so diffuse as to avoid a melodic center or ignore the raucous nature of rambling, gambling music. The CD is bookended by hard swingers: the opener, "Boppin'," has a melody that sounds like it is played backwards, goofy, and a little off-kilter; while "Fast Ride" is more straight and true, but retains an edge that recalls the more challenging material that Hubbard or Sam Rivers might have contributed to the Blue Note label. "Flex" is another post-bop but angular swinger with great solos from the horns. A churning modal 11/8 rhythm suggests both Asian and African influences during the excellent "Musashi," while Arabic or Native American elements and Person's soprano sax inform the snake charmer-styled title track, with the dark serpentine ostinato bass of Kenny Davis setting the tone before switching to an escapist samba. The deviously conceived "Just Fiends," clearly a mutation of "Just Friends," has a chopped-up Glassman and Person agreeing and disagreeing vigorously. Two ballads, "Late November" and "Joan," are emotional opposites, the former a shadowy waltz for impending winter, the latter a post-romantic free discourse from rhythm or bar lines, featuring the poignant and sullen alto sax of Person. Esposito's individualistic piano playing needs repeated audio observation to realize its uniqueness, but this is more his composer's forum. He succeeds on many real and important levels in creating some of the finest new modern jazz you may hear in the post-Wynton Marsalis era. ~ Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide - All Music Guide


"A Book of Five Rings"

JOHN ESPOSITO With JAYNA NELSON/MATT SCHULMAN/ERIC PERSON/JIM FINN/TONY UNDERWOOD/HILLIARD GREENE/PETER O'BRIEN - A Book Of Five Rings: Live At The Knitting Factory (Sunjump CD 05; USA) Jayna Nelson, Flute and Piccolo; Matt Schulman, Trumpet; Eric Person, Alto and Soprano Saxophone; James Finn, Tenor Sax and Bass Clarinet; Tony Underwood, Tuba; John Esposito, Piano; Hilliard Greene, Bass; Peter O'Brien, Drums. This great live set was recorded in August of 1997 at the Knitting Factory and hasn't been released until now. The long and circuitous story in the liner notes must be read to be believed to see why it has taken so long to get this disc to be released. I only know about half of the folks in this fine octet. All of the pieces here are relatively long, the entire CD is nearly 79 minutes long. "Bwarat" opens and Mr. Esposito has written some strong harmonies for the horns: bass clarinet, flute, soprano sax, trumpet and tuba. There are a number of long and inspired solos from the flute, soprano sax and trumpet. What is most striking is the support and interplay of the rhythm team, especially John's dynamic piano. On "Smitty", it is John's McCoy-like piano that is most astonishing and powerful, pushing the band higher and higher, with another burning solo from Matt Schulman's trumpet. The octet sounds like a little big band on "Two Worlds" with Peter O'Brien's drums creating a driving rhythmic force. The freer moments here are especially inspired and feature some fine soprano and bass clarinet swirling around one another intensely. The final piece, "...And His Spirit Ascended/Trane's Church" is an uplifting, epic-length, spiritual work which I find to be completely enchanting. The piano is rather harp-like and the flute and hand percussion create soft cosmic waves. Flutist Jayna Nelson is a particularly fine musician who I haven't heard of before or since this disc, we can only hope that will uncover more from her in the future. This is John Esposito's fifth disc on his own Sunjump label and each one has been another undiscovered gem ripe for the plucking. Do not miss out on these delectable hidden treasures! - BLG - Downtown Music Gallery


Discography

Year

Artist/Group

Title

Label
________________________________________________
1980

Steve Geraci

Aliqae Song w/ Arthur Rhames, John Stubblefield, Kit Potter, Charlie Knicely, Rashied Ali, Jeff Siegel, Fred Berryhill

Beat City - released 2009 Sunjump
________________________________________________
1981

Arthur Rhames Trio

Live from Soundscape w/Jeff Siegel

DIW
________________________________________________
1986

Second Sight

Flying With The Comet w/ Dave Douglas, Jeff Marx, Jeff Siegel, Fred Berryhill

Sunjump - released 2008
________________________________________________
1987

Second Sight

Tiger Tracks w/ Dave Douglas, Jeff Marx, Jeff Siegel, Fred Berryhill

Sunjump (upcoming 2012)
________________________________________________
1992

Ryan Kisor

MinorMutiny (composition only: The Invisible) w/ Ravi Coltrane, Lonnie Plaxico, Jeff Siegel

Columbia
________________________________________________
1993

Franklin Kiermyer

In The House of My Fathers w/ John Stubblefield, Dave Douglas & Anthony Cox, John Rojak, Chris Gekker, Dave Braynard, Dan Grabois, Eric St. Laurent, Tom Chess

Konnex
________________________________________________
1994

Pharoah Sanders/ Franklin Kiermyer

Solomon’s Daughter w/ Drew Gress

Evidence
1996

Franklin Kiermyer

Kairos w/Sam Rivers, Eric Person, and Michael Stuart, Dom Richards, Drew Gress

Evidence
________________________________________________
1996

Sangeeta Michael Berardi

Earthship w/ James Finn, Hilliard Greene, Peter O’Brien

Sunjump - released 2008
________________________________________________
1996

Sangeeta Michael Berardi

Calling Coltrane w/ James Finn, Hilliard Greene, Peter O’Brien

Sunjump - released 2012
________________________________________________
1996

Eric Person

More Tales To Tell w/ Dave Holland, Calvin Jones, James Finn, Michael Rabinowitz, Cary DeNigris, Gene Jackson

Soulnote
________________________________________________
1997

John Esposito

Book Of Five Rings w/ Jayna Nelson, Matt Schulman, Eric Person, James Finn, Tony Underwood, Hilliard Greene, Peter O’Brien
________________________________________________
Sunjump - released 2008
1999

Jayna Nelson
Bloom Of Creation w/ Matt Schulman, Francois Moutin, Peter O’Brien
________________________________________________
Sunjump - released 2009
2000

Jeff Marx

Great Unknown (composition only: Yellow)w/ Michael Jeffrey Stevens, Santi DeBriano, Jeff Siegel

Naugual
________________________________________________
2000

Eric Person

Extra Pressure w/ Carlos Henderson, E.J. Strickland

Distinction
________________________________________________
2003

John Esposito

Down Blue Marlin Road w/ Ira Coleman, Peter O’Brien

Sunjump - released 2006
________________________________________________
2003

John Esposito

The Blue People w/ Greg Glassman, Eric Person, Kenny Davis, Peter O’Brien

SunJump - released 2006
_______________________________________________
2003

Eric Person

Live at Big Sur w/ Kenny Davis, Peter O’Brien

Distinction
________________________________________________
2003

Jeff Marx

Treading Air....... Breathing Fire w/ Ira Coleman, Peter O’Brien

Soluna
________________________________________________
2005

Rick Altman

Total Immersion w/ Mike DeMicco, Jay Anderson, Steve Rust, Jerry Gibbs

Silver Star Music Group
________________________________________________
2005

Eric Person

Reflections w/ Dave Douglas, Kenny Davis, Mark Johnson

Distinction
________________________________________________
2005

Jeff Marx

Dreamstuff (composition only - Blues for John Stubblefield, Little Elliot, Tumble, Interiors w/Jeff Siegel

Ayler
_______________________________________________
2009

Mitch Kessler

Erratica w/ Ira Coleman, Peter O’Brien

Sunjump - released 2009
________________________________________________
2009

Marx/Siegel/Esposito

INYO w/ Jeff Marx, Jeff Siegel

Sunjump - released 2009
________________________________________________
2010

John Esposito

Orisha w/ Ira Coleman, Peter O’Brien

Sunjump - released 2010
_______________________________________________
2010

Mitch Kessler

Der Erlkönig w/ Ira Coleman, Peter O’Brien

Sunjump - released 2011
_______________________________________________
2011

Tahrir

Marx/Siegel/Esposito

w/ Jeff Marx, Jeff Siegel

Sunjump - released 2012

Photos

Bio

John Esposito is an American pianist/composer/drummer/producer who works on a wide array of creative music projects. His technical skills and the range of his artistic palette extend across the stylistic boundaries of the Stride Piano, Swing, Bebop, Modal and Free Music movements. He has performed and recorded with artists including Nick Brignola, Dave Douglas, Dave Holland, Carter Jefferson, Franklin Kiermyer, Joe Lovano, J.R. Monterose, David “Fathead” Newman, Eric Person, Arthur Rhames, Sam Rivers, Roswell Rudd, Pharaoh Sanders and John Stubblefield.
John is the owner/executive producer of Sunjump Records. He has created music for theater, dance, film, TV commercials, and multimedia performance art. He is a music faculty member and Artist-In-Residence at Bard College and resides in New York State’s Hudson Valley.
After attending SUNY Albany John worked as house pianist at the Gemini Jazz cafe for several years leading his own group with guest soloists including Nick Brignola and John Stubblefleld and spent a year working in saxophonist J.R. Monterose’s band.
He moved to New York City in 1980 and met the phenomenal, young saxophonist/pianist/guitarist Arthur Rhames while playing on guitarist Steve Geraci’s Beat City label record date Aliqae Song with John Stubblefield and Rashied Ali. John worked in the Arthur Rhames Quartet for the next five years.
In 1985, John formed Second Sight – a quintet with trumpeter Dave Douglas, saxophonist Jeff Marx, and drummer Jeff Siegel They recorded Flying With The Comet in 1986, an album of John’s original compositions released on John’s independent label Sunjump Records followed by Tiger Tracks (1987). This five year period marked the beginning of John’s work as a producer and in addition to Second Sight’s music, Sunjump released a Jose Chalas record, Living On Avenue F and Marc Wagnon’s, Shadowlines.
Throughout the eighties John also worked with saxophonists Carter Jefferson, John Stubblefield, J.R. Monterose, Hugh Brodie, Greg Abate, Nick Brignola, Bobby Johnson Jr; Roswell Rudd, Beaver Harris, and many others.
In the 1987 John moved to Woodstock, NY and in 1989 formed the FM Artists Coalition with Saxophonist Erica Lindsay and bassist Anthony Cox. The group lasted three years beginning with a series of monthly house concerts, continuing with two years of co-productions with the Woodstock Guild in the Kleinert/James Gallery, culminating in August 1992 in a three day Jazz, Poetry and Visual Arts Festival at the Byrdcliff Barn. John produced 25 concerts for the FM Coalition and the 160 artists presented included Karl Berger, Tim Berne, Cindy Blackman, Baikida Carrol, Dave Douglas Tiny Bell Trio, Marilyn Crispell, Santi DeBriano, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Howard Johnson, and Wadada Leo Smith.
From 1990-92 John played regularly with the Glen Richmond trio at Fat Tuesday NYC, and solo piano at the Village Corner, Bradley’s, NYC and the United Nations Building.
Beginning in 1993 John began working with the groups of Franklin Kiermyer and Eric Person as pianist and arranger. He recorded four albums with Kiermyer : In The House Of My Fathers (1993 Konnex) with Dave Douglas and John Stubblefield ; the critically acclaimed Solomon’s Daughter (1994 Evidence) with tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and bassist Drew Gress; Kairos (1996 Evidence) with the saxophonists Sam Rivers, Eric Person, Michael Stuart; and Sanctification (1999 Sunship) with saxophonist Michael Stuart and bassist Fima Ephron.
Gigs included Sweet Basil, NYC with Joe Lovano, Eric Person and Drew Gress;
tours of the US including the San Francisco Jazz Festival at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California; the Panasonic Jazz Festival at the Knitting Factory, NYC; Lincoln Center, NYC; a ten concert tour of Canadian Jazz Festivals including Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.
John also played on four albums with Eric Person’s Meta Four beginning in 1996 with Eric’s More Tales to Tell (Soulnote) with Dave Holland and Gene Jackson.
Gigs included NYC club appearances at the Blue Note, the Knitting Factory, and Visiones; tours of Jazz festivals and clubs including the Montreal Jazz Festival; Fresno CA Billy Higgins Festival; Savannah Jazz Festival; Texaco Jazz Festival, NYC; Newport/Friehoffer Jazz Festival Saratoga Springs, NY; Detroit Ford/Montreux Festival; Newport Jazz Festival, NYC ; and the Bell/Atlantic Festival, NYC. Media performances included broadcast of the Detroit Montreux concert on Branford Marsalis’ Jazz Set on NPR.
John appeared on three more Eric Person CDs: Extra Pressure (2000) ; Live At Big Sur (2003); and Reflections (2006) with Dave Douglas and Kenny Davis. John toured with Eric Person’s Meta Four in performances at the Guimaraes Jazz Festival, Portugal; the Blue Note, NYC; Big Sur Jazz Festival; Blues Alley, Washington, D.C.; Savannah Jazz Festival, GA; Jazz Factory, Louisville, KY; the Brooklyn Academy of Music; dozens of clubs and concerts and wor