Erik Deutsch: La Nuit Blanche
Keyboardist/composer Erik Deutsch’s days in the jam-friendly acid-jazz outfit Fat Mama seem like a very distant memory at this point. Over the last decade or two, he’s performed as a consummate sideman for mega-acts like The Chicks, Norah Jones and Rosanne Cash, along with diverse live favorites like Devotchka and Leftover Salmon. You wouldn’t think he’d have time for much more, but, indeed, Deutsch has also carved out a jazz-fusion career of his own, releasing numerous albums as a band leader. His latest release, La Nuit Blanche, is a six-song EP that rounds together an impressive cast of supporting musicians: Avi Bortnick on on guitar, Jeff Hill on bass and Tony Mason on drums, as well as Mike McGinnis and Brian Drye on reeds and trombone. The result is another gorgeous addition to an already fluid catalog of jazz compositions. The EP starts off with “Tio Illegal,” a song that builds over nearly seven-and-a-half minutes, while Deutsch’s fellow musicians surround his driving piano line. From there, the album transfixes you into a number of different moods. The title track “La Nuit Blanche” is an emo soundscape; Deutsch interplays with the trombone, creating a mellow, cocktail-hour vibe. “Martha” is fueled by Deutsch’s uplifting, bluesy rhythm and a guitar line that flutters in the background. “Fantasma” finds Deutsch and crew oscillating from an upbeat bounce to a more contemplative theme through multiple tempo shifts. It sounds like a “hard” listen, but it’s actually quite the opposite. And this is really what Deutsch excels at—making jazz compositions that don’t seem overwrought, but will keep you on your toes throughout.