The Starting Point vs The Steep Decline showcases Easley’s skills as a writer and composer backed by some of the finest jazz musicians the East Coast has to offer.
Tom Easley is one of most recognized jazz musicians on Canada’s east coast and a true ambassador of the music and its craft. Through his time as bass player with the Hot Toddy Trio, Easley and his band mates helped offer outside audiences a way in by bringing their music into schools, bars and onto festival stages where blues, rock and folk where the standard. Their efforts to make jazz music accessible simply by presenting it alongside other popular genres helped bridge the gap for many musicians and music lovers, helping to guide curiosity into a greater appreciation.
As an educator with both the Nova Scotia Community College Fine Arts program and the St. FX Jazz degree program, Easley remains committed to spreading jazz music’s freedom and influence, a mission that is well defined on his latest recording, The Starting Point vs The Steep Decline.
For this, the debut album from his latest project, The EQ (Easley Quartet), Easley has assembled a remarkable ensemble to perform and explore his own compositions. The group features East Coast jazz giants Geordie Haley and Kevin Brunkhorst on guitars with Mark Adam on drums. While the influence of jazz greats Bill Frisell and Dave Holland is evident throughout many of the album’s textures and rhythms (The Starting Point vs The Steep Decline was also released on Holland’s 72 birthday), Easley’s ability for disguising complexity by quickly establishing strong, memorable themes on each of the album’s tracks help make this collection accessible and enjoyable for new ears and jazz music devotees alike.
The album begins with Easley introducing his instrument and its voice through simple blowed phrases above the subtle droning of layered guitar. One by one each instrument begins to walk through the simple modulating melody of The Dreaming, and we’re off.
As the album progresses, Easley’s appreciation for simple melodic phrases and his proven love for exploring the possibilities within such minimal content receive an entirely new interpretation thanks to the pairing of Haley and Brunkhorst who move effortlessly through tandem, complementary and contrasting phrases. This pairing is highlighted especially well on the tracks Miguel’s Last Day and Deep Down where explorations in melodic tone and rhythm sit at the forefront.
There’s a lot of variety on The Starting Point vs The Steep Decline with a wealth of different ideas being explored. Adam’s cymbal work plays a key role in the overall momentum of the album but perhaps gets a little too busy at times. Thankfully these minor points of congestion are few. Adam and Easley have played together in several ensembles over the years and their communication on this album is an admirable testament to their shared vision.
Recorded live off the floor by engineer Mike Ryan, The Starting Point vs The Steep Decline is a beautiful sounding, well balanced recording. Easley’s skills as a musician, a writer and an arranger are on full display throughout the entire album with each track as simple or complex as your ears want to make them. Smooth, memorable melodies arranged with depth and care delivered by some of the finest players around.
The EQ will be playing some shows around the Maritimes this fall in support of The Starting Point vs The Steep Decline including three New Brunswick dates in November. Dates below.
Oct. 25 | The Local | Halifax, NS
Oct. 26 | 1313 | Halifax, NS
Oct. 27 | Paul’s Hall | Glen Haven, NS
Nov. 23 | The BMO Theatre | Saint John, NB
Nov. 24 | TBA – matinee | St. Andrews, NB
Nov. 24 | Wiler’s Room | Fredericton, NB