Ellery Eskelin. I first heard about Ellery more than ten years ago when I came accross a trio of his on Hat Hut Records with Jim Black on drums and Andrea Parkins on accordion and other instruments... his longest working groups. What amazes me about Ellery is how unique he sounds. He clearly has an understanding of the jazz idiom and the concept of the tenor saxophone, yet sounds unlike anything else I've heard. On the one hand he sounds like on old tenor man with the rawness of the old old generation, a tone and intent that speaks blues fluently. On the other hand, Eskelin is not afraid of the avant garde, with complex melodic and harmonic lines and very forward-looking compositional ideas. As with all the great creators, clarity is the glue in all this: Whatever he is doing it's clear!
My favorite record of his is called Forms (a trio record with Drew Gress on bass and Phil Haynes on drums), where he fuses the old jazz tradition with the a free approach - not unlike Albert Ayler but an updated version. The two worlds are brought together very clearly on this record and hence it has becmoe one of my all time favorites. He has done many a project since then and I love them all, but have secretly longed for another album where Eskelin would tackle the old song forms again. Well my dream has come true, as Eskelin just released Trio New York with Gerald Cleaver on drums and Gary Versace on Hammond B3 Organ. On this album the trio tackles standards such as Off Minor and How Deep Is The Ocean. I love it!