Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Faces of the Artists Quarter #21

Jay Epstein, with an airborne missle, with Bryan Nichols' ensemble's tribute to Keith Jarrett (2012)

© Andrea Canter

I don't recall when or in what context I first saw drummer Jay Esptein, but I am sure it was at the Artists Quarter. Maybe with Red Planet, or Bill Carrothers or perhaps backing a vocalist.  Aside from hearing his talents behind the trapset, I have always enjoyed watching Jay -- arms flailing with a certain symmetry, sticks and often other objects cutting arcs through the air, those sudden jabs at the cymbals that catch you by surprise at just the right moment. At a recent Red Planet gig, it looked like he had raided the kitchen cupboard, finding spoons and egg beaters as more than adequate substitutes for brushes and mallets. One of my favorite Jay-enhanced gigs at the AQ was as part of Bill Carrothers "Armistice 1918" project -- his percussion arsenal included gongs and shakers. A few years later he added percussion to Bryan Nichols' usual quintet in a salute to Keith Jarrett's American Quartets--more shakers, more hand-held objects.

Jay and eggbeaters
Red Planet, the trio with Dean Magraw and Chris Bates, is perhaps the most popular of Jay's ongoing projects, but he's also managed time for Easy Company with Anthony Cox and Bill Carrothers and Framework with Chris Olson and Chris Bates. Away from the AQ, he's been heard on tour with Five by Design and with pianist Mary Louise Knutson. But the AQ seems to be his musical home --even on recent nights when he has played in the house band for the adjacent Park Square Theater, Jay heads down to the AQ after the final curtain. Just to hang out and listen. Another face in the crowd -- until he gets behind the trapset. Then he's part of the heartbeat of the AQ.