John Escreet is a versatile musical omnivore, moving fluidly between different facets of the jazz community. The pianist’s Learn To Live features Nicholas Payton, Greg Osby, Matt Brewer, Eric Harland and Justin Brown, while his Trio features John Hébert and Tyshawn Sorey. No matter the setting, Escreet can be found exploring different types of improvisation, groove, structure, and form.
More recently, Escreet has been busily touring and traveling with drummer Antonio Sanchez, which was what he was doing when we caught up with him for a quick phone interview. We spoke about his upcoming gig at The Jazz Gallery, for which Escreet invited guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Damion Reid for an open-ended evening of composed music and improvisation/exploration.
The Jazz Gallery: I want to hear what you’re planning with Ben and Damion. I know you’ve played with both of them, but have you played together as a trio?
John Escreet: No, we haven’t played together as a trio. Honesty, I haven’t got that much planned at the moment: Right now, I’m thinking of keeping it trio, doing some electronics, maybe bringing a couple of synths. Damion has played a lot of my music before, but Ben and I have hardly played together, maybe once. We’ve been trying to play together for a while. It’ll be fun, and I’m excited to be playing with them both.
TJG: What is it about Ben’s playing that pulls you in his direction?
JE: It’s unique, very improvised and open. He’s an all-around strong musician and very creative guy. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. Damion was the first person I called for the gig. I felt like trying a new combination, something unfamiliar: Damion and I were throwing ideas back and forth, and he mentioned that he and Ben had also been trying to play together for a while. I hit Ben up, he was into it, and that was that. I like the fact that I’m leaving it open, in terms of what can happen on the gig, you know. It’s all loose, and I know if I just let those guys do their thing, it’ll probably be good.
TJG: Who’s music will you be playing?
JE: A couple of tunes of mine, which I’m about to send out this evening. Damion knows them already, but Ben hasn’t played them yet. I have some other things in mind. Some of this stuff is through-composed, specific lines and things, but the improvisation is also loose, so the music can be both at the same time.
TJG: The piano/drums hookup is a crucial one; how do you tend to interact with Damion?
JE: I find it very easy to play with him. He latches onto whatever the essence of the composition is, ingests it in some way. Strong ideas, lots of interaction, lots of fun.