CD Review: Joshua Espinoza, Songs From Yesterday.

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Joshua Espinoza’s sophomore album, “Songs From Yesterday,” emerges as a poignant sonic reflection of his life’s journey and the musical influences that have shaped him. Following the success of his 2022 single “And So It Goes,” which climbed into the top 40 on the Spotify Global Jazz Charts, this captivating piano trio album, set for release this coming Friday, brings forth a rich tapestry of composition and expression.

The genesis of this album lies in the initial days of the pandemic, a period that provided Espinoza the space to contemplate his life, delving into his intricate childhood and earliest musical memories. As he articulates, this album is a culmination of years spent in introspection, navigating the various emotional landscapes of growing up and recognizing music’s profound ability to heal and rejuvenate.

Espinoza’s musical identity is a fusion of American traditions like jazz, folk, and blues, interspersed with classical impressionism, chamber music. Artists such as Chick Corea, Shai Maestro, and Maurice Ravel have significantly influenced him, contributing to a unique sonic realm distinctly his own. The trio intricately explores a set characterized by engaging harmonies and dynamic contours, embracing the essence of both chamber ensembles and jazz trios.

The album unfolds with five original compositions and inventive interpretations of classics by Espinoza’s cherished songwriters, including Lennon/McCartney, Billy Joel, and Leonard Cohen. Songs like “Appalachian Wanderer” and the rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” both resonate with folkloric roots.

Opening the set is Espinoza’s enchanting composition “Adrift,” a musical reverie that gently floats, capturing a sense of profound rest. The delicate, lilting nature of this piece invites listeners into a tranquil space, evoking a feeling of being adrift in a serene ocean of melodies. Espinoza’s keen ability to craft a composition that paints a calming portrait is evident, setting the stage for the exploration that follows.

Jaron Lamar Davis | Joshua Espinoza | Kris Monson

Following “Adrift,” the album unfolds with “Appalachian Wanderer,” a composition set in 3/4 time that takes on a notably different character. This piece exudes a sense of urgency, immediately noticeable through its bold melodic exposition and rhythmic vigor. The urgency in the composition is akin to traversing the Appalachian landscape, with a pace that reflects the wanderer’s restless journey through the terrain. The contrast between the opening track and “Appalachian Wanderer” showcases Espinoza’s ability to encapsulate diverse emotions within his musical vision.

The third piece on the album titled “Happy Song,” contributed by bassist Kris Monson, emerges, maintaining a folkloric essence. Despite the appearance of simplicity, there lies a hidden layer of rhythmic complexity, carefully concealed beneath the joyful facade. This complexity keeps the listener engaged, allowing for a delightful discovery of the composition’s intricate rhythmic patterns.

Diving into Espinoza’s exploration of renowned songwriters’ works, the album presents an interpretation of the Lennon and McCartney classic “Yesterday.” Espinoza infuses this timeless piece with a soulful treatment, skillfully merging pop elements with an Americana flavor. The result is a rendition that pays homage to the original while presenting it through a jazz-influenced lens. Next cab off the rank is Espinoza’s composition, “Michoacán”. On first listen, this track reminded me of the iconic Ahmed Jamal trios of the late ’60s, however, Espinoza infuses a modern harmonic language here giving it a contemporary edge.

Another captivating interpretation of a Lennon and McCartney composition, “Eleanor Rigby,” unfolds with substantial rhythmic urgency. The opening bars of the piano solo delight with an almost pizzicato sound, adding a layer of intrigue to the piece. Espinoza’s rendition infuses a sense of urgency and intensity into the track, enhancing its emotional impact. This interpretation stands out as a highlight on the album, showcasing Espinoza’s command over his craft and his ability to infuse a familiar composition with new vitality. The album culminates with the penultimate track “Don’t Fan The Flame,” a masterful display of Espinoza’s up-tempo virtuosity before closing out the set with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.

Beyond showcasing his musical virtuosity, Espinoza is driven by a vision to expand jazz’s listenership, reaching out to anyone willing to embrace the genre’s diverse and enriching sounds. “Songs From Yesterday” is an invitation to delve into the beauty and complexity of the jazz piano trio, and in that invitation lies its charm and allure. Highly recommended, this album stands as a testament to the artistry and innovation that Espinoza brings to the art of the piano trio.

Joshua Espinoza, Piano | Kris Monson, Double Bass | Jaron Lamar Davis, Drums

Track Listing:
1. Adrift | 2. Appalachian Wanderer | 3. Happy Song | 4. Yesterday | 5. Michoacán | 6. Eleanor Rigby | 7. And So it Goes | 8. Don’t Fan the Flame | 9. Hallelujah

Release Date: 29 September 2023
Format: CD | Streaming
Label: Independent Release

Last modified: September 26, 2023