Surrender to Jeff Oster’s September CD of the Month.
Until recently, you didn’t hear much trumpet outside of jazz in contemporary music. There’s Jon Hassell, Mark Isham and you’re pretty much done. But lately there’s been a cavalcade of trumpeters with electronic aspirations, including Nils Petter Molvaer, Ben Neill, Giorgio Li Calzi and Arve Henriksen. Jeff Oster should be on that list as well. Until his 2005 debut, Released, he was a journeyman horn player. Now he’s the go-to trumpeter for any number of musicians, including Windham Hill Records founder, Will Ackerman.
With this third CD, Jeff Oster enters edgier terrain with an even more personal sound. Surrender is an album of 21st century lounge music, morphed through soulful melodies, snaky grooves and film noir textures. “All That Matters” establishes the terrain with a swampy rhythm redolent of Jon Hassell’s sound from about 16 years ago, during his Blue Screen phase. Oster smears harmonized and echoing trumpet across the slow groove, intoning a dark, Miles-esque minimalist melody.
With a trumpet sound that seems as if it were blown in Rudy Van Gelder’s studio circa 1958 and then electrified, Jeff Oster has made music for dark nights and rain-swept city streets. But this is thoroughly modern music which is by turns growling, slinky, seductive and trancey. He spaces out completely on “53 Mirrors”, echoing his flugelhorn against a cycle of tuned percussion sounds and swirling, tremulous synthesizers. Oster loves playing these long, legato lines, leaving notes hanging sustained above the firmament like frozen skyways.
While Oster’s previous album, True, featured many guest musicians, Surrender is mostly a two-man show. He’s joined by Bryan Carrigan, who co-wrote all but three tracks and co-produced the album in addition to programming and playing keyboards. The lone signature guest is Diane Arkenstone who goes Donna Summers-breathy on the title track and plays the role of the affirming chorus of Oster’s philosophical musings on “The Voice.”
Jeff Oster might want to leave the lyric and poetry writing behind, but he’s found a personal voice for his horns. While the influences are apparent – Miles, Hassell, Isham – he’s synthesized them into his own mood-evoking music: a dark, smoke-filled lounge of liquid neon and tarnished chrome. Surrender is the Echoes CD of the Month for September.
- John Diliberto (Echoes.org)
Review excerpt from Music and Media Focus
Jeff Oster’s name is one I’ve been hearing quite a bit recently – often as a session musician on a number of new releases produced by Windham Hill Records founder William Ackerman. However, I was also familiar Jeff’s own new release, “Surrender” which was chosen by the nationally syndicated Echoes radio program as the “CD of the Month” for September 2011. What distinguishes him from nearly every other musician in this genre are his instruments of choice - trumpet and flugelhorn. Jeff is charting new sonic territory in his expansion of these instruments into a context of electronica, downtempo beats, and loop based electro-orchestral bed tracks. Although the description of his music as “Miles meets Enya” is a good starting point, it soon transcends those references as various elements combine in audio alchemy.
He is joined by producer and engineering master Bryan Carrigan, who adds additional synthesizers, drum programming, and sound design, as well as having co-produced and co-written eight of the songs on this album. Also adding her own inimitable talents to a number of the compositions is vocalist Diane Arkenstone, who is an artist of note in her own right.
Trying to pick favorites on this CD is an exercise in futility, as literally every track is a winner. While there is indeed a dreamy, almost surreal quality to the music, it is infused with a cool urban vibe that makes it intriguing, entrancing, and irresistible.