Two Covid Era Releases
Review by Willard Manus

MUSIC FOR THE EXPLORATION OF ELUSIVE PHENOMENA and SOCIALLY DISTANCED DUOS are two albums which prove that not even a pandemic can keep jazz musicians from creating new and daring music. The albums, by Julian Gerstin and Jeff Pearring, respectively, were recorded in a year when it was impossible for musicians to get together to work on a new album. Instead, they stayed at home, putting down their tracks individually and digitally, leaving it up to an audio engineer to mix and master the music.

The results are amazingly good. You’d never know the band-mates were isolated from each other when the albums were made, so crisp and fresh-sounding are they, the work of several masterful artists and technicians.

Jeff Pearring is an alto-saxophonist who heads a group known as “Pearring Sound.” On SOCIALLY DISTANCED DUOS he collaborates with many of his favorite musicians: Billy Mintz (drums), Cameron Brown (Bass), Claire de Brunner (bassoon!), Daniel Carter (soprano sax), Francisco Mela (percussion) and Ken Filiano (bass). The tunes, all of which but one (“Solar,” by Miles Davis) were written by him, include waltzes, blues, ballads and red-hot mano a mano exchanges. The communication between Pearring and his pals is both remarkable and thrilling.


MUSIC FOR THE EXPLORATION OF ELUSIVE PHENOMENA is the brainchild of Julian Gerstin, a composer/percussionist/pianist who specializes in world music: brass band, funk, salsa, afro-beat and straight-ahead jazz. Gerstin asked nineteen musicians and singers to record their parts at home. What might have been a discordant mess becomes instead a tight-sounding, swinging affair; twelve tunes that reflect Gerstin’s wide-ranging musical interests.
“American History,” for example, delves into 250 years of America’s turbulent history with key phrases from each era serving as lyrics: “We the People...Way Down Upon the Swanee River...Go West Young Man...Manifest Destiny...War to End all Wars...” are just a few of the phrases. Then the band shifts gears and investigates Nigerian dance music, down-home blues (“Long Journey Home,” sung by Sarah Le Mieux), and much more.

Always fresh, lively and provocative, MUSIC FOR THE EXPLORATION OF ELUSIVE PHENOMENA is highly recommended.