Escoffery
Jazz Saxophonist & Composer

Press Reviews


Escoffery Gets 4 Stars in DownBeat!


Wayne Escoffery, "The Only Son of One" & Ben Riley Quartet "Grown Folks Music"
Jazztimes, June 2012
By: Bill Milkowski

These new releases offer two sides of the abundantly gifted, extremely confident tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, who is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with. A longtime sideman to trumpeter Tom Harrell and a member of Ben Riley's Monk Legacy band and the Mingus Big Band, Escoffery has developed a strong presence as a bandleader over the course of seven previous releases. His eighth, his debut for the Sunnyside label, is a major leap forward conceptually from 2009's soulful organ-group outing, Uptown.

The Only Son of One traces Escoffery's personal journey from his rough start in North London, where he was raised by a loving mother and her abusive Jamaican husband, to his emigration at age 8 to the United States, where he took up the saxophone and eventually came under the wing of Jackie McLean at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford. Escoffery's composing here often alludes to a spiritual awakening.

Escoffery's composing here often alludes to a spiritual awakening.
Grounded by bassists Hans Glawischnig and Ricky Rodriguez and drummer Jason Brown, The Only Son of One is further shaped and colored by Orrin Evans' forceful piano and Fender Rhodes comping and Adam Holzman's synth seasonings. Escoffery plays passionately on top, revealing a love for John Coltrane with his sheets-of-sound approach on the energized opener, "World of the Bardo," and wailing with cathartic abandon on the turbulent modal number "Banishment of the Lost Spirit." He digs deep on the searching vehicle "Perilous Desires," mellows out on the mysterious title track, and blows with exuberance and rare authority on the lone straight-ahead swinger, "If I Am, Who You Are."

"Selena's Song," a potent waltz-time tribute to his courageous mother, and the soothing meditation "Presumed Innocence" feature retro Mini-Moog solos by former Miles Davis sideman Holzman that conjure up '70s Chick Corea. Following a restful "Color Spectrum," Escoffery switches to soprano for an intimate duet with pianist Evans on the gentle, improvised "Two Souls" to close out his most diverse and rewarding collection to date.

On the Grown Folks Music session, led by elder statesman and former Monk drummer Riley, Escoffery summons up bold tones and exudes a relaxed, old-school vibe on renditions of Monk's "Friday the 13th" and "Teo," along with such affecting standards as the buoyant "Lulu's Back in Town," a swinging "Without a Song," a Latin-tinged "If Ever I Would Leave You," and "Laura," an album highlight on which the saxophonist channels his inner Dexter Gordon. On the tasty ballad "A Weaver of Dreams," Escoffery blows with Trane-inspired depth. Bassist Ray Drummond anchors this straight-ahead session with his usual authority while guitarists Avi Rothbard and Freddie Bryant provide some six-string sparkle along the way. Riley's masterful, understated performance throughout demonstrates that, at age 78, he is still one of the greats.


Wayne Escoffery, "The Only Son of One"
Jazz Inside Magazine, June 2012
By: Curtis Davenport

Wayne Escoffery's new album is the latest in a string of discs that are steadily establishing him as one of the best tenor-men under 40. The Only Son of One features more of what we've come to expect from the London native powerful, inventive modern jazz lines, straight out of the Joe Henderson school. However on this album, were hearing a bit less Joe and more of his unique voice, which is a very welcome one.

At 37, Escoffery has become a prominent part of the New York jazz scene. In addition to his own group, he has been a member of Eric Reed's septet; The Mingus Big Band; Lonnie Plaxico's group; Abdullah Ibrahim's Akaya; Ben Riley's piano- less Monk legacy group; The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and since 2006, trumpeter Tom Harrell's widely respected quintet. He has received a decent amount of airplay and critical acclaim for his work as a leader and as a sideman. That should continue with this album, which is not only well played, but very accessible, but never to the point where it descends into mindlessness.

The Only Son of One is another triumph by Wayne Escoffery, one that should appeal to a wide variety of jazz listeners, from the casual to the serious.
As with a growing number of projects, The Only Son of One was produced with the assistance of a robust Kickstarter.com campaign, which helped to raise the funds necessary to record the album. More artists are turning to methods such as Kickstarter, in these tough economic times, as record labels have turned off the funding spigot for most jazz projects. It also provides an artist a bit more freedom to record projects that mean something to them and The Only Son of One is deeply personal. Mr. Escoffery was born in a tough section of London. His mother left his abusive, Jamaican-born father and fled to the U.S. when Wayne, their only child, was eight. They arrived in the States with nothing and got by for many years on their wits and determination. The titles of the songs tell the story of his upbringing, the tough times, his spirituality and how they all shaped Wayne.

As this is an album of instrumentals, these titles would be almost meaningless without great music to back it up and there is plenty of that here. The album swings hard right out of the gate with "World of the Bardo", a song that takes its title from the Tibetian term "Bardo" which means transitional state. Escoffery's father died of cancer when Wayne was in his early 20's and he had dreams that his father had visited him, with a desire to talk to him. Escoffery swings the hell out of this hard driving piece, pouring note after note into his solo, with solid support from Orrin Evans on Fender Rhodes and some strong timekeeping by Jason Brown. The title track is a deeply melancholy tune that comes out of Wayne's memories of his boyhood longing for siblings, while growing up in a single parent home. I heard that longing in his solo and having an understanding of those sentiments, it broke my heart. "If I Am, Who You Are" is Wayne's reminder to himself to never become the man that his father apparently was. His tenor tone is bell clear on this song and the nod to Henderson and Wayne Shorter is clear. I also love the use of the Fender Rhodes, instead of the acoustic piano on most tracks. It provides the arrangements with some needed sweetness. Finally, "Color Spectrum", about the various shades of blackness and how they are perceived, is achingly gorgeous, with Escoffery's balladry riding to new heights, leavened by the keyboard work of Evans and Adam Holzman, Brown's subtle, yet insistent timekeeping and Ricky Rodrigues bass. It's a track that an enterprising R & B radio programmer should jump on if their looking for something different.

The Only Son of One is another triumph by Wayne Escoffery, one that should appeal to a wide variety of jazz listeners, from the casual to the serious.


Wayne Escoffery, "The Only Son of One"
All About Jazz, May 30, 2012
By: RAUL D'GAMA ROSE

Not since the works of bassist Charles Mingus and saxophonist John Coltrane has there been music so charged with emotion and so engulfed in spirituality as The Only Son of One, an album that bleeds with raw sentiment as it bares the soul of its young saxophonist and composer, Wayne Escoffery, and ultimately brings much catharsis and edification. In the sorrowful and glorious vocalistic of his saxophone, Escoffery reveals the pain and ultimate triumph of his relationship with his parents and, in doing so, emerges frayed but surprisingly whole, humane and, in the process, mature and edifying as a musician. With this landmark album, Escoffery has not only come to terms with the bitterness of his pastÑ especially in the context of an abusive fatherÑbut he has created a soulful testament to the triumph of the human spirit, just as his musical ancestors had done before him.

Escoffery is far from being a sentimentalist, despite his decision to exorcise his past by way of musical intervention. Many musicians have done this with little success, but Escoffery's expedition is a soulful, emotional one. As his heart bleeds, he pours out his pain into his tenor and soprano saxophones. Like a decanter on fire, the pain bubbles and boils over, emerging from the bell of his horn in growling and wailing runs that dart and arrow up and down the registers.
...Escoffery has not only come to terms with the bitterness of his pastÑ especially in the context of an abusive fatherÑbut he has created a soulful testament to the triumph of the human spirit, just as his musical ancestors had done before him.
Despite letting his emotions flow in a bluesy rush from heart through head, Escoffery's virtuosity shines through. His musical phrases and lines are sometimes long and every once and a while they include twisting arpeggios that bare his soul. Although his sound is broad and occasionally moist, his phrases are lean and muscular and often comprise a series of elevations, and as he narrates life lessons vividly, the saxophonist paints graphic images in varying shapes that delve into the fourth dimension. His solos sometimes end in cuboid shapes as they return to the original root of the melody, where Escoffery invents new ways to state his themes and stories.

The saxophonist is aided on his quest by an ensemble that is more than sympathetic to the purpose of his journey. Orrin Evans is his guiding spirit, and his Fender Rhodes often sounds as if it were a guardian angel that shadows Escoffery's horn. The addition of Adam Holzman is an inspired one; the keyboardist adds ambient music that seems to create an ethereal setting for Escoffery's journey. The bassistsÑHans Glawischnig and Ricky RodriguesÑmake typically virtuoso harmonic and melodic contributions and, together with drummer Jason Brown, they keep things real as well as preventing the melodies from dropping into sentimentalism.

The recording is crisp, with well-defined sound, but it is novelist James McBride's liner notes that make Escoffery's journey bearable for musician and listener alike. McBride's empathy for Escoffery and his predicament is palpable and, for once, a description of songs is not intrusive. The Only Son of One is a significant milestone for Escoffery.


Carolyn Leon-hart and Wayne Escoffery, "If Dreams Come True"
Jazziz March 2008
By: Ross Boissoneau

Vocalist Carolyn Leon-hart and her husband, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, have lent their talents to one another's albums previously, but this is their first full-fledged collaborative effort. If there's any justice, it won't be their last.

Vocalist Carolyn Leon-hart and her husband, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, have lent their talents to one another's albums previously, but this is their first full-fledged collaborative effort. If there's any justice, it won't be their last.
From the first note to the last, it's clear that, to borrow a cliché, the two make beautiful music together. On the opening title track, the mood gets brighter and brighter as first bassist Hans Glawischnig, then drummer Jason Brown, and finally pianist Toru Dodo enter. Then Leon-hart and Escofferey breeze in with a flourish, Leon-hart effortlessly sailing through the lyrics and Escofferey riding atop the melody, before venturing off for a solo accompanied by Leon-hart's wordless backing.

On their original “Nothing Left To Say,” the formula and mood are similar: upbeat and exploratory, both voice and sax reaching out, with supple accompaniment from the rhythm section. Kenny Barron's “Never Too Soon,” with lyrics by Leon-hart, offers Escofferey even more opportunity to stretch out, which he does with aplomb. Throughout the disc, he makes his case as one of modern jazz's foremost saxophonists, albeit one who hasn't received the press of a Joshua Redman or Branford Marsalis. But listening reveals shadings to his playing that others would do well to emulate.

For her part, Leon-hart shows she not only has an enticing voice, she knows how use it. And when. On Escofferey's "Not Without You"" she's part of the background, her vocalizing essentially another wind instrument, but she's mostly absent as the quartet does the heavy lifting. The same is true on the Hank Jones-penned “Angel Face,” before she returns on Benny Carter's “Key Largo.” Whatever track you choose, this disc is proof that, both for this musical couple and for listeners, dreams really do come true.


Carolyn Leon-hart and Wayne Escoffery, "If Dreams Come True"
ejazznews.com
By: Edward Blanco

Carolyn Leon-hart provides lush vocals as saxophonist Escoffery delivers vibrant and tasteful tenor and soprano solos...
A collaborative effort between husband and wife, “If Dreams Come True,” is the realization of their vision to produce a special recording and what a dream of an album it is. Carolyn Leon-hart provides lush vocals as saxophonist Escoffery delivers vibrant and tasteful tenor and soprano solos on a repertoire of music from the likes of Benny Goodman, Benny Carter to Lee Morgan, Hank Jones and Kenny Barron. A tasteful and graceful session of light and beautiful jazz by an enchanting couple and cast.

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Carolyn Leon-hart and Wayne Escoffery, "If Dreams Come True"
midwestrecord.com

...this jazzy romp pings a lot of elements in the listener with it's deceptive, free flowing improv vibe.
Ah, how nice there is other domestic bliss on record than Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. The Steely Dan background vocalist and the young lion sax ace sound like they must light sparks in each other in each of their waking moments, in a good way. With sonic crispness being their sixth man on the court, this jazzy romp pings a lot of elements in the listener with it's deceptive, free flowing improv vibe. A wild and tasty set where all the cats are wailing in top notch style making this a natural for satellite radio fans and Ipod users that like to swing and groove. Hot stuff.


"Veneration: Live at Smoke"
allaboutjazz.com

By Edward Zucker Live at the Village Vanguard: These magical words signified a musician had made it in the world of jazz. For the current generation of musicians, Live at Smoke may now take its place.

Tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery clearly has arrived, as evidenced on Veneration: Live at Smoke. Escoffery, who performs regularly with Tom Harrell, the Mingus Big Band and Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet, has honed his chops and is in clear command of his instrument. This outing provides an excellent case that his name deserves mention in any discussion of upper echelon tenor players.

This outing provides an excellent case that his name deserves mention in any discussion of upper echelon tenor players.
The quartet outing is dedicated to one of Escoffery's teachers, the late Jackie McLean, and it is fitting that one of the highlights is “Melody for Melonae,” from McLean's seminal Let Freedom Ring (Blue Note, 1962). Here the tune features haunting bow work by bassist Hans Glawischnig and wonderful interplay between Escoffery and Joe Locke on vibes, including some brilliant scatting behind Locke during his runs.

Escoffery shows his comfort with a near ballad on the elegiac “Tell Me Why,” and displays his developing identity on soprano. The album's statement moment, and an early contender for song of the year, comes on Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan," which features Escoffery in a beautiful duet with Glawischnig.

With Veneration: Live at Smoke, Escoffery has made his mark.


"Veneration: Live at Smoke"
midwestrecord.com

The jazz blowing here will simply blow your ears wide open.
Recorded live, this is a hard swinging, lyrical sax man that you are going to know about if you don't already. Leaving an impressive streak across the New York sky since arriving in 2000, Escoffery has fallen in with the Monk legacy crew as well as playing dues with some first call crews. The jazz blowing here will simply blow your ears wide open. A progressive player that doesn't pile on the notes and chops just for the sake of doing so, he won't fail to impress you as you groove to this date over and over. Well done.


"Veneration: Live at Smoke"
midwestrecord.com

By George Carroll
...the technical aspects of his performance are in a word awesome. As he plays & interprets his musical passages, he gives them artistic significance by default.
Wayne Escoffery plays the soprano & tenor sax like a man citing chapter & verse on how to make a horn sound credible...And, so he does while you sop up the cogent talent of this sax savant....Check out his take on ''I Waited For You,'' (jazz ballad extraordinaire). In general, the technical aspects of his performance are in a word awesome. As he plays & interprets his musical passages, he gives them artistic significance by default. Last, may I suggest that his dynamic & interpretive palette is wide-ranged, free of any melodic or harmonic taboos. On the contrary, this guys art is very real!



Before and After with Wayne Escoffery
JazzTimes Interview by Bill Milkowski
One of the more potent new-breed tenor players on the scene today, Wayne Escoffery summons up a crackling intensity on the bandstand, pushing the envelope into some fresh new territory while showing a profound respect for the jazz tradition. The six-foot-four-inch London native of West Indian heritage has also parlayed his striking good looks into a side career in modeling, having done numerous print ads and commercials as well as appearing in the occasional TV role. Born in London, England, on Feb. 23, 1975, Escoffery moved with his mother to the United States in 1983 and by 1986 settled in New Haven,
McLean later gave Escoffery a full scholarship to attend the Hartt School, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in jazz performance and became one of McLean's prize pupils.
Conn. At age 11, he began private saxophone lessons and by age 16 was seriously committed to the instrument. During his senior year in high school, Wayne attended the Artists Collective in Hartford, Conn., where he met Jackie McLean, world-renowned alto saxophonist, educator and founder of both the Artists Collective and the jazz program at the Hartt School. McLean later gave Escoffery a full scholarship to attend the Hartt School, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in jazz performance and became one of McLean's prize pupils. Escoffery later attended the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the New England Conservatory, where he performed and studied with such jazz veterans as George Coleman, Jimmy Heath, Clark Terry, Ron Carter and Barry Harris...

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"Intuition" All About Jazz
By John Kelman
From the circular-breathing introduction to the titular opening track, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery makes clear that his first release, '01's Times Change , was but a calling card, announcing the arrival of a vital new player on the scene. Intuition is a confirmation and, with a band that has spent some time working together, shows what he can do when richer interplay is involved.

Escoffery's command of the instrument is impressive, able to navigate broad intervallic leaps with a sound that is robust in all registers. His writing favours the modal exploration of post-Coltrane territory, but is more concise; there are no long-winded improvisations here,
Escoffery's command of the instrument is impressive, able to navigate broad intervallic leaps with a sound that is robust in all registers..
but in the space provided Escoffery, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and pianist Rick Germanson have the opportunity to contribute vibrant solos that never overstay their welcome.

Any session with drummer Ralph Peterson is likely to be exciting; he is the perfect rhythm section foil for Escoffery's writing, driving each soloist to greater heights of intensity during the ostinato solo passages of "The Alchemist." As torch-bearer for the late Art Blakey, his polyrhythmic fervour makes the kit an equal partner, not just a rhythm section instrument.

Thankfully, with the intensity of compositions including the title track, Pelt's "Tightrope" and a cover of Joe Henderson's "The Gazelle," Escoffery knows when to take things down a notch or ten. "The First One" is a delicate ballad that is as much a feature for bassist Gerald Cannon's resonant sound and tasteful choices as it is for Escoffery's tenor, which is as tender on this track as it is fiery on the more uptempo numbers. Escoffery also takes a chance with a solo rendition of “I'm Old Fashioned,” where he remains faithful to the truth of the piece while managing to imbue it with a personal stamp. As impressive as his playing is on the harder swinging numbers, it is when he is laid absolutely bare that the essence of his style truly emerges.

As impressive as his playing is on the harder swinging numbers, it is when he is laid absolutely bare that the essence of his style truly emerges.
To further broaden the diversity of the album, Escoffery calls on his wife, singer Carolyn Leon-hart, to deliver a rendition of the standard "I Should Care" that ought to be a benchmark for singers feeling the need to interpret the Great American Songbook. Over a Latin-tinged 5/4 reworking by Escoffery with Germanson's Fender Rhodes lending an early Return To Forever feel, a comparison that is further cemented by Escoffery's Joe Farrell-like soprano sax, Leon-hart's delivery is the perfect confluence of passion, individuality and faithfulness. "Enduring Freedom," again with Germanson's Rhodes, explores transitional Miles territory, with Pelt paying homage without losing his own stylistic sense, more deeply rooted in Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard.

With Intuition Wayne Escoffery has clearly arrived. While stylistically entrenched in post bop terrain, his writing has enough personality to distinguish it. And by surrounding himself with a group of players who have the intuition and inventiveness to take any material and give it a distinctive stamp, he has created a set that positively shimmers.


"Time Changes" All About Jazz
By Dave Nathan
This is London native Wayne Escoffery's first entry on the Nagel Heyer label. Rather than going with a crowded program, the sax player opted for eight tunes leaving him enough time on this hour plus album to examine and probe possibilities and opportunities to create a special listening adventure. The short answer to whether he accomplished that objective is "yes". It helped to include tunes written by masters of free and creative jazz as Yusef Lateef ("Water Pistol") and Sam Rivers (”Beatrice”). It also helped to have studied at one of the country's most forward looking jazz programs, Jackie McLean's Hartt School. His time was not wasted there as he respects what each tune has to give in terms of emotion, musical ideas and harmonic texture.

...a variety improvisional paths, effectively using one of music's oldest techniques, repetition to good effect...
On Jobim's lovely "Triste", Escoffery and cohorts state the melody, then go down a variety improvisional paths, effectively using one of music's oldest techniques, repetition to good effect, before revisiting the melody more than seven minutes later. There's some straight from the hip hard bop on the kick off track, an Escoffery composed "Come Back Lucky", a tribute to the great and tragic Lucky Thompson. One aspect of Escoffery's playing setting him apart from saxophonists of his generation is his tone. Although he is playing creative jazz, he avoids the shrillness of sound that many believe has to be part and parcel of that style. If this album is any indication, Escoffery knows that music is supposed to give pleasure, not give one a headache. Recommended.



Interview w/ Jazz Hot: La revue internationale du jazz
By Jean Szlamowicz
...Yes, after leaving London at age eight, my mother and I traveled a few places before settling in New Haven, Ct. We lived briefly in Montreal, Canada; Miami, Florida; and Atlanta, Georgia. New Haven was a great place for a child to be exposed to the arts. It is a very culturally and artistically rich place. My mother worked for Yale University so I had access to the University's libraries, museums and theaters and she made it a point to take me to these places as much as possible....

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