e.s.p. -- Time's Up!

While this is not an exclusively contemporary offering�at least not from many a smooth jazzer�s perspective, ESP is a group of extremely talented and competent musicians who quite obviously take their jazz seriously �as equally straight-ahead as it is contemporary in spots (actually, I�d say it is predominantly straight-ahead). Time�s Up is a fine piece of work that both contemporary fans and jazz purists can easily enjoy. This project is not really my personal preference, mind you, but that takes nothing at all from the caliber of material set forth here.

The tone, cadence, �swells,� and overall groove of many of these tunes do periodically flirt with contemporary elements, as with tunes like the generously lengthy �La Hija,� a rhythmic, melodic Latin-tinged piece that does brightly bring to light that element. �Copper Room,� with guitarist John Magnante�s stylish work, would be another that nods at the contemporary in a very handsome, controlled way. I also absolutely love Brian Scherer�s sax work on that tune. Coming to mind would also be �Stone Cold,� a real exercise in the art of timing and another testament to contemporary jazz. On the other hand, pieces like the opening track are a purist�s dream come true.

Throughout the album, Scherer�s brilliant scale work on sax and sweet melodic flute, coupled with really tasty string and electric bass lines by Matthew Vacanti, the bright guitar work by Magnante, and soothing keys by special guest Brian Blumenthal, do much to add flair to what can surely be found in the quaint, dimly lit jazz clubs across the country.

The album�s title is obviously a witty effort to speak to the diverse timing found here. �Post Bob Republic� the �walking� straight-ahead offering differs, of course, from the timing on the aforementioned �La Hija,� �Meet Me in Paris,� a smoky slow tempo bluesy little thing, �Merge,� or the previously mentioned �Stone Cold.� Blues fans should enjoy �Be-Bop-Da-Wop,� a bright yet bluesy/jazzy stroll that highlights the sharp skills of Magnante and Scherer.

All in all, this is a refreshing predominantly straight-ahead project with enough contemporary jazz infused to give it a nice shape. Not necessarily a completely balanced shape, but a nice shape nonetheless. The appeal of the marvelous melodies and the styles of the musicians and their obvious connection to the music in an easy, unimposing way speak volumes about the character of both the artists and their music. Classy effort indeed.