Home New York Report Truth Revolution Recording Collective presents Michael Eckroth’s “Human Geography”

Truth Revolution Recording Collective presents Michael Eckroth’s “Human Geography”

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Truth Revolution Recording Collective is thrilled to announce the newest album by GRAMMY-nominated pianist and composer Michael Eckroth, Human Geography. A renowned pianist-composer who elegantly and effortlessly steps between the realms of contemporary jazz, Afro-Cuban, and Puerto Rican music cultures, Eckroth’s impressive career includes credits with jazz icons such as John Scofield, Ron McClure, Eliot Zigmund, and the critically acclaimed Orquesta Akokán. A follow-up to his 2021 release Plena, on Human Geography Eckroth combines the skill and passion gleaned from years of recording, writing, and performing within this fluid blend of Latin American music and modern jazz for which he is so known and creates something that is uniquely personalized.
Inherently paying homage to the cultures of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the vast amalgam that comprises jazz, Human Geography is an individualized perspective on the overlap of these traditions that showcases an intimate knowledge of and love for the genres – yet it does not adhere entirely to the normative frameworks. Featuring a rotating cast of piano trios with a selection of horn appearances, Human Geography is a masterwork of collaborative ebullience with an emphatic adoration of the cultures and traditions from which it is derived.
The album’s title, Human Geography, was taken from a concept in sociology in which cultures – and the people within them – are tied to their geographical location. This theory looks at how the location influences a culture as it interacts with the world around it and the other cultures with which it coincides. Through this process, a culture becomes not defined by a single attribute, but by the history of its people, its place, and the ebb and flow of its exchanges with other communities. Similarly, the music that Eckroth has created over the past decade, and the curated selection present on the album, stands as a musical representation of this sociological notion. This music itself is not a distilled version of any single tradition but is instead defined by the locations, the people, and the musical histories with which the composer and his ensembles have interacted. In so doing, Human Geography stands as a sort of map, charting the processes, progression, and development of a sound, with Eckroth standing as its great cartographer. 
Musically, Eckroth keeps his compositional style influenced by but distinct from any specific artist or tradition, preferring to keep his final sonic product unique to his ensemble’s sound, learning from rather than merely emulating the legacies of those who’ve come before. In this way, while one may note the influence of great pianists such as Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, the complete sound that is achieved is unequivocally that of Eckroth himself. The music of Human Geography likewise reflects this, between the personality of each composition and the blend of influences of each band member that, as Eckroth says, “similarly cover the space between Latin jazz and mainstream swing-based jazz with enthusiasm.”
The album opens with its title track, featuring piano trio with horns. The piece “Human Geography” stands as an apt summation of a series of compositions Eckroth wrote that incorporate jazz with a guaguancó rhythmic sensibility. On this track, Eckroth utilizes a 5/4 rhythmic basis over a long harmonic form, culminating in a vamp, with both sections acting as vehicles for improvisation. “Freedom in Precision” similarly leans into guaguancó jazz rhythms, while harmonically and structurally standing in contrast by periodically shifting to single-chord vamps instead of remaining strictly bipartite in form. “Kachina” is loosely Afro-Cuban in sensibility, but veers from the norm in that its support beam is an angular bass line with a rich harmonic ecosystem atop it. Notably, “Kachina” showcases the use of synthesizer for orchestration, which Eckroth notes is a sound he’s leaning increasingly towards as a poignant palette within composition. “Little B’s Poem” is set apart in that it is the only piece on the album that is an arrangement, not an original composition. An ode to Herbie Hancock and Bobby Hutcherson, the piece aligned neatly with the vision of the album, and features trumpeter Alex Norris, saxophonist Peter Brainin, and drummer Joel Mateo. “New Bomba” is a piece composed heartily upon a series of interwoven ostinatos, with the Puerto Rican bomba rhythm as the basis for them all. The album concludes with “Hilton”, the title of which is a tribute to the great Hilton Ruiz, whose music has become increasingly influential on Eckroth.
Eckroth is quick to give praise to his band members in achieving the powerful vibrancy of this album. All of the musicians on the album are longstanding collaborators for Eckroth, with each one representing a lengthy history of performing and creating together. Above all, Eckroth values the musicians’ ability to fit anywhere and envision anything. “These musicians are supremely flexible, and most importantly are able to bring out more than what’s intended by the compositions and arrangements,” Eckroth says. “It’s a group aesthetic that has been nurtured over several years of sporadic playing.” The album boasts multiple arrangements of piano trios, changing bassists and percussionists both to suit the needs of each piece and to represent different moments in Eckroth’s musical history. The personnel on Human Geography is Michael Eckroth (piano, Rhodes, keyboards); Joel Mateo (drums); Raul Reyes, Edward Perez, and Alex “Apolo” Ayala (bass); Mauricio Herrera and Carlos Maldonado (percussion); Matt Hilgenburg and Alex Norris (trumpet); and Peter Brainin (tenor saxophone). 
With Human Geography, Eckroth showcases not only his indomitable command of the piano keys and the heartstrings, but the intentional beauty of careful knowledge as each piece, each groove, and each collaboration is a masterfully crafted charter between cultures and worlds. Truly, Human Geography stands as a landmark in the truest sense as it denotes the histories and traditions within the locale of the human experience.
Human Geography releases June 21, 2024, via Truth Revolution Recording Collective. 
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A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.

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