• Bryon Harris

Esakoff - 'Esakoff'

Based out of Ventura, California, Esakoff is a prolific singer/songwriter and multi instrumentalist (guitar, ukulele, and marimba). In his earlier, exploratory music career, Esakoff went under the moniker 'Mark Freddy,' but eventually he moved on to co-found the the world jazz band, Chasm, who he recorded 4 albums with. For his latest project,Esakoff has released a 13-song self-titled CD that is essentially a compilation of his earlier works, written years ago, from his time on the road. Esakoff describes the CD as a"collaboration with his younger self" as he revives the catalog with a fresh perspective. As a special knod to the original compositions, Esakoff uses the same guitar (an Alvarez 4950) that he traveled with (the guitar is pictured on the CD cover photo). The band that brings these songs to life consists of Esakoff on vocals/guitars/ukuleles/marimbas; backup vocals/bass and Bodhi Jones on bass (Track 3).

Opening up the CD is the song “Sweet on You (Tricks on Me)"which starts with single chords strummed and a few instrumental fills/nuance. Esakoff enters in singing, “I got a belly full of butterflies.” Here the music imitates fluttering wings, painting a picture and setting the mood which is light and fun. Esakoff continues, “Walking on air got the sun in my eyes. Maybe I’m under some kind of a spell. Drank a love potion I really can’t tell...” After the first verse is sung, the full band kicks in with a tight pop-rock sound that is realized with an upbeat, walking bass line and nice crisp percussion. The versus are highly melodic and the chorus presents a strong hook that you can really sing along to. The song is about how it only takes one second, “on a hot summer night” to get hooked on love.

Up next is “Found in Paradise” which commences with high energy, in-the-pocket drumming and bass with some large guitar chords that come in like paradise waves. Kudos to Zephyr’s bass playing as he often takes nice bass leads using melodic content from the song’s compositions. Esakoff’s singing has a an edgy poetic quality, an alternative edge, as he sings the well-crafted lyrics “Funny day lazy weather, Go for a swim no ruffling feathers, Lie in sun get nothing done, With my special someone.” “Found in Paradise” has a great guitar and flute duo mid-way. It’s rare to hear fine flute playing in pop-rock music and Michael Whipple’s contribution on flute is a great addition to the track.

”Home When I Get There”, musically and vocally, has a great Bowie vibe to it. A favorite line from the song is, “Some say home is where their heart is at….Some say home is where they hang their hat.” The song is about freedom on the road and freedom in the soul and it has a fun free-wheeling vibe to it. Moving to Track 5 of the CD is the noteworthy song “She’s Free.” With a slight 60’s vibe “She’s Free” has smooth melodic substance. Esakoff shows that he can switch up his vocal style from alternative and slightly punk to smooth pop-rock with ease. As Esakoff sings “She’s free to be who she wants, who she needs to be. She’s free to be who she’s born to be, to write her own story…..”a butterfly lands in a dream” a backdrop of plucked ukulele plays nicely off the melodic and rhythmic content of the song.

Moving along, another song that really caught my ear, is Track 7 “Look at Her Glow.” In some ways this song is a rock lullaby. It opens with acoustic riffs and some jazzy guitar vamping. “She was born on the first day of spring, early in the morning you can hear the birds sing. She makes sound like the coo of a dove, spring has sprung a bundle of love.” Some classic pop "do-do-do’s" serve as a pre-chorus before the chorus, which is very catchy, comes in, “Look at her Glow…” The song’s lyrics seems to move along in time as the girl grows up in Venice with her Mom and Dad, waving her hands at birds in the trees and everyone she sees. Very tasteful guitar solos lace this memorable track.

Going to Greece is the next track and it will take you by surprise. This song has a wonderful bluegrass meets jazz flavor. It’s an instrumental with some swampy-bass and train-track percussion that keeps it moving along in a foot-stomping way. Over this foundation, the listener is treated to some seriously great percussive guitar playing that will keep you mesmerized from beginning to end. "Going To Greece" is a great showcase of Eskoff’s instrumentality diversity and talent.

For a fun and entertaining break, Track 9 offers up a heck of a lot of flavor wirh “Cheeses.” “Cheese on my pizza cheese on the moon. Cheese in the morning and the afternoon. Because I like the stuff. Swiss cheese, cream cheese, cottage or blue. Is cheese your mama fed you the cheese you chew, Or have you had enough?” The song is pure fun and it’s even got bluesy guitar solos to go the blue cheese! Looking deeper, I'm not sure if Esakoff was giving us hidden messages or if the song is simply about cheese.

Take a listen to "Cheeses" here.

"Peer Pressure", Track 11 on the CD, is another stand-out with it’s big band pop-rock sound, catchy content, and great beat. Even though Esakoff is talking about Peer Pressure, you’re still having fun listening to the music and the only pressure you will feel is one to get up and move. The composition and arrangement of "Peer Pressure"

Sometimes compilations are by many artists and sometimes they are by one artist offering a collection of songs from their past. In the CD "Esakoff" you will be treated to 13-songs from his past that are like a box of chocolates - each one is different, flavorful and worth trying. With each song, Esakoff demonstrates his pop-rock song-writing craft with an alternative vision that might be in the form of crafty lyrics, rhythmic percussive beats, edgy and poetic vocals, big band jazzy sensibilities, and more. Putting out an album that reflects your history as a writer and musician is a great accomplishment and Esakoff has pulled it off.

For more information on Esakoff, visit his website.

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