Album: Walking on Eggshells by QUINN STERNBERG

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Jazz bassist and composer Quinn Sternberg has followed up the success of his previous studio album with another meticulously crafted set of jazz compositions that feature a dazzling ensemble of players and are stunningly recorded and mixed. Walking On Eggshells is a rich, immersive listen that keeps on giving throughout its runtime.

After a short time from the release of Cicada Songs, Sternberg’s successful previous album, he returns with his working band for more of the same conceptual, groovy, and intricate forays into modern jazz. Inspired by the idea of modern-day anxiety, easily aroused by and observed in any topic that can be discussed, the album also seeks solace in the company of others, and how there can be people who can alleviate the effects of all this stress. In delivering this concept, Sternberg mesmerizes with 8 new compositions that are crisply and thoroughly jazzy. 

The record starts with arguably its most accessible and tangible piece, and its titular track. ‘Walking On Eggshells’ introduces us to the healthy mixing job executed on this album as it offers a sublime saxophone performance from Sam Taylor, defining the track’s main motif, and its most memorable layer. Healthy electric guitar solos ensue from Nahum Zdybel, as longtime collaborator Peter Varnado bashes the drums tastefully in an intricate performance that is loaded with rhythm breaks, killer grooves, and bombastic fills. The title track is reminiscent of Japanese jazz rock with its modal Saxophone motifs and nuanced rhythmic composition that never stops being accessible and immersive. Bidding farewell to rock music levels of accessibility, the album gets denser with its improv sections and harmonic compositions, becoming purely modal, starting from the second piece. Make no mistake, though, the compositions get more deep and intricate, but never once get too dense to follow along and understand, and comfortable motifs to latch onto are not absent on any of the album’s pieces.

‘Green Eyed Baby’ is a stunning Broadway jazz piece that introduces more saxophone-lead motifs. With a sparkling piano that lays down a fantastic performance, and a juicy bass solo, ‘Green Eyed Baby’ is surely a more improv-heavy composition. Haunting upright bass drones populate the fascinating ‘Ripple’. Noir, silky, and tastefully brooding, this cut is an obvious standout that features a bone-chilling bass performance that summons to mind the smoky soundscapes of Bohren & Der Club of Gore. The hectic and stormy ‘Yuri Gagarin’ sees Sternberg putting himself in the uneasy shoes of Yuri Gagarin as he is doing mankind’s first orbiting the earth from space. With a granular and fantastic drum performance from the amazing Varnado, the choppiness of Gagarin’s space trip is mirrored in the uneasiness brought forth by the drum performance, and the Coltrane-esque saxophone playing. The chill and characterful ‘Meadow’s Murmur’ is another obvious standout among its peers on the album. Like a smoother older sister to the titular piece, the piece shares motifs with earlier Sternberg compositions, and it is definitely the album’s most laid-back piece, even if a storm is readily brewing beneath the piece’s surface at all times. With the least pronounced melodies or motifs, this cut feels like the album’s most free-flowing offerings, and regardless of the actual amount of improvisation happening, the piece is a warm, eloquent, and mature composition that showcases Sternberg’s command of the flow of his band mates.

Walking On Eggshells is full of daring musical ideas that are all effortlessly delivered by a group of masterful professionals that are making it seem too easy. Smooth, flowing, compelling, and intricate, the performances on the album are a clear testament to a very high tier that Quinn Sternberg and his band are operating from.