Sunday, March 24, 2024


Having grown up (as a teenager) in the late ‘60s, I was introduced to the musical concept of the "supergroup" during the days of Cream, Blind Faith, ELP, West, Bruce, and Lang, among others. It has been both nostalgic and interesting to see that the concept of "supergroup" has emerged during the last decade or so in instrumental music. I suppose some would ask what the difference between a supergroup and a mere collaboration is, to which I admit the delineation may be somewhat thin. However, simply put, when all the artists' names (or a group name) are on the album cover, rather than a single artist and the others are only specified in the credits, that’s one distinction I can point to. Just my two cents.
Whether you agree with my definition or not, there’s no denying that the word "super" can be applied to album from Jeff Oster, Vin Downes, and Tom Eaton, seven conversations (lower case intentional). It's a super recording from some super-talented individuals. However, it sounds unlike most of I've heard from these guys on their previous releases - well, up to a certain point, I guess. Oster's trumpet and flugelhorn have sometimes been this mellow, but Eaton's keyboards have typically been either in an ambient-ish vein (as a solo artist) or on Imaginary Road productions, more…well, not like it is here. And of course, Downes is well-known for being an outstanding acoustic guitar purveyor of somber, reflective, or sometimes warmly introspective soundscapes. I know that I didn’t expect anything like what I heard the first time I played seven conversations!
seven conversations is a smooth, blissed out, and chilled (not chill-out, though) excursion into a world of synthesizer textures, minimalistic piano, bluesy horns, and laid back electric guitar that merge into a whole that somehow, and I don't how, manages to morph into something that is both urban and rural, something intelligent yet soulful. If you watch any commercial TV, you may have seen a Capital One commercial with Samuel L. Jackson which ends with him saying "It's kinda genius." (yeah, I know – technically the last line is "What's in your wallet?").

Those first few minutes of track 1, "hushed," will set the stage for what will follow with the remaining "conversations." Each successive song takes this album's "formula," (for lack of a better word) and maintains continuity while also serving up each of these nuggets with enough diversity that the perfect combination of a unified musical statement is achieved. Now, this is difficult enough for one artist to do. How in the world Oster, Downes, and Eaton managed to be this symbiotic is a feat that few could do.
Even when a song veers slightly from the others, such as "words overheard," with it's percolating synth notes at the outset, as soon as Downes' guitar and Oster's trumpet enter the fray, the musical scene returns to smooth sailing. On "a confession," Oster fills the air with some bluesy notes, while Eaton's piano and Downes' guitar glide underneath. Worth noting is that throughout the album, these three artists exhibit uncommon unselfishness. Everyone gets their time in the spotlight. That said, it's startling how not a single moment of showboating is anywhere to be heard.
I also need to praise the pleasantly cryptic song titles. More than once in reviews, I have referenced the landmark album from Tim Story, Beguiled, as the standard bearer for song titles that give no hint at a song's theme, mood, etc. The same is true here, with the one exception maybe being "hushed," whose title could foreshadow the vibe of the song. Other titles not previously mentioned include "a reckoning," "words overheard," "subliminal," "her wisdom," and the closing 11+ minute "hours slip by. That's how one might approach seven conversations since one could have this amazing album on repeat and have one's day pass in a blissed state of, dare I say it, utterly beautiful relaxation.
In closing, and here's the real kicker, the entire album was recorded in real time. Yeah, that's right. These are all improvisations! I mean…. are you freakin' kidding me? As I wrote earlier…it's kinda genius!
Produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered by Tom Eaton
Jeff Oster: Flugelhorn and trumpet
Vin Downes: Electric guitar
Tom Eaton: Keyboards, loops, programming, and bass

1 comment:

Pooroldrich said...

You have peaked my interest. Looking forward to buying and hearing this record very much. Appreciate that review...