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EE Pointer—Dialogues

There is a unified sound to EE's new album. EE combines the trumpet stylings of Miles's electric years with straight-forward (but experimental) jazz poetry ala Jack Kerouac or Anne Waldman or Beth Lisick. There's the taste of "acid jazz," but only a touch, a dab. If you enjoy spoken word poetry or late Miles Davis fare, this album is for you. And it can be played either for ambiance (because it is fun and smooth to listen to) or as an intellectual voyage, where you focus on the words, parsing to find how they make sense of a fragmented, chaotic, postmodern world that’s at sea. If Thomas Pynchon could play trumpet (and loved poetry), this is maybe what he'd make. And no one disputes Pynchon's genius or appeal.

If you know and love RIVER COW ORCHESTRA, this is in that vein, EE being the group's trumpeter and front man. And, like John Lennon, sometimes the leader must break off and do his own thing, explore new and alien worlds. In this case, EE may be on his way to join Sun Ra on Saturn. The album is that "out," and refreshingly so. I was surprised at how much EE's playing reminded me of Miles. Along with the intonation and phrasing, there's that imminent sense that EE is in total control. Every sound beneath him is a hum to support that brassy, electric sound--the bell of the horn tacitly tilted down. EE spoke of how Miles inspired him--and eventually this album: "When I walked in (to a party in college), I was blasted by this sound, and I said, ‘What is that?' And he said, 'That's Miles. His latest record.'...BITCHES BREW...and I'm telling you that really got to me. That really made an impression..."

One line from EE's song goes, "As he slid away, I realized the squid was fully clothed." EE explained: "I go into a restaurant and ask for squid, and the waiter is a that's what that was." EE said, "This one (album) was important to me because it involved more...words than I usually use." Sometimes the words and phrases on this album come at you like a "non-linear story line and scattershot approach," as EE calls it, riffing off a method Beat writer William S. Burroughs adopted (or invented) in his middle and later works. A teacher for years, EE talked about when he started playing seriously again. "I retired in 2009...and I told my son I was starting to practice a lot more...and my son says, 'Are you gonna start playing again...Are you scared?...Get out there and try it.' I never would believe I could still be doing this...One of my teachers told me, 'A man doesn't stop playing his instrument when he gets old. He gets old when he stops playing his instrument.'….I'm 68." Over the years, EE taught 6th through 12th grade. "About 200 kids a day," he said. "It's an interesting time, (that age.)"

EE is a long-time staple player in KC. With RIVER COW he can be seen playing more "out" gigs around town, especially at The Writers Place, in between poets at the podium. Or backing them. Without EE, a lot of KC poetry would likely be drier. With EE, there's absolutely no falling asleep.

There is a sense with this album that we are in someone else's dream, looking through a microscope into someone else's mind. It's better than a book, better than a movie. It is its own thing.

Even without the words, it would be remarkable. And with them, it makes its own sense. It calls out in soundbites, but unlike in pop culture ads, it does not ask you to buy something. It asks you to think, to feel. EE recorded this album all solo, all at home, during this pandemic. Before the outbreak, EE got some lessons on how to record: "Dwayne at 'Weights and Measures' studio is just fantastic, and he pushes us in different directions, and from him I learned a lot...about microphone placement and compression...things you don't learn as a trumpet player….I did them all (the tunes) right here (at home)...I've played north of 600-plus times with RIVER COW...and I tell ya, I miss that. I know how Greg Brent plays…(but here) I did it all myself. Most of the drum parts, I'm playing on an electronic drum pad. Same thing with bass. I use lots of different apps...midi stuff. (And) I did all the trumpet parts live." EE said he does miss gigging live, though: "I'm used to playing with the RIVER COW ORCHESTRA, but that 2019 (because of the pandemic)...And I practice and do what I usually do, but I decided to put out some work...This one (album) dropped December 1 (2020)...I just gotta keep working. I get an urge to write something down, and do it...I've actually started another one (album). I have four or five tunes. I wish I were playing with my bandmates."

EE's influences range from Miles to Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart to Keith Jarrett, and the album reveals that kind of variety, that kind of kindly riprap (small assorted stones placed on the hiking trail to keep one from slipping).

"I don't have to play all of the things my colleagues play," EE said. "I have a decent retirement….I'm lucky enough to sit in my studio...and have the wherewithal to put it down….I have a good time with it, and I'd love for some people to listen to it...I read from one gentleman: 'Truth is perception,' and I thought. You idiot, 'Truth is gravity.' It's not something you perceive...You don't go off a cliff and float...When I'm playing with the COWS…(someone might say), 'That stuff, I can't dance to it'...(But) do you write your poetry for yourself or for everybody else? … If you do something the right way, it should be sweet enough for you...If someone else likes it, that's icing on the cake."

The album can be found at EE's website:

“Dialogues” is also available for download or streaming through iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google Music, Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube.

—Kevin Rabas

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