He’s the most amazing talent I’ve come across. Remember him. – DAVE BRUBECK
It’s often said that a debut album encapsulates the lifetime of experience leading up to its recording. Given all that the GRAMMY-nominated Taylor Eigsti has done since the release of his last studio album, the pianist’s ambitious Tree Falls is practically his second debut. Scheduled to be released on May 21 by GSI, it marks the triumphant return of an artist who’s been both a global road warrior and a constant—and consistent—composer.
Featured on the album’s first single—a playful and mischievous version of “Skylark“—is American Idol finalist and popular member of Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, Casey Abrams.
The title of the album, Tree Falls, alludes to Eigsti’s absence: “There’s been a lot of my own music that I’ve been doing or making over the last decade,” Eigsti says. “But I haven’t officially released anything of my own for over 11 years. Without letting most people hear what you’re doing, it doesn’t mean as much.”
Eigsti certainly had been building up momentum and some impressive achievements with his body of recorded work—two GRAMMY nominations for his major label debut, Lucky to Be Me (Concord Records) back in 2006, plus nominations for albums on which he’s featured in 2013, 2015 and 2016. The most recent of these, the Miles Ahead soundtrack, earned him his first win. He was also seen on a PBS Great Performances broadcast in August 2018 with superstar trumpeter Chris Botti, in whose band he toured from 2013 through mid-2018.
And it hasn’t been a lost decade for Eigsti by any means. In addition to living an impressive—and, to some, exhaustive—touring life in bands led by his peers and friends, he’s also been focused on composing and performing symphonic works as well as solo pieces. So the challenge was how to best reflect the past decade for him musically and personally.
“I wanted Tree Falls to be something that represents who I am—a really personal record,” he shares. “This is the music that is closest to my heart and my own life journey, and it took me a long time to break down the barrier and finally allow people in to that experience.”
With a dozen tracks that range from a solo piano performance and a piano-vocal duet with Becca Stevens to ones with full-on orchestral accompaniment, Tree Falls reflects both the intimate and grand musical moments of Eigsti’s previous decade. His eighth album as a leader, it reflects the many bandleading, sideman and compositional adventures that the 36-year old Manhattan resident has had since the release in 2010 of his previous album, Daylight at Midnight, on Concord Jazz.
The 11 original compositions (a 12th, “Porch Break,” is a vinyl-only interlude) reflect his continued compositional pursuits including numerous long-form orchestral commissions in which he was a soloist starting in 2006. The album’s roster of musicians includes newer and longtime friends and collaborators: guitarist Charles Altura, electric bassist David “DJ” Ginyard, and drummer Eric Harland, co-owner of the state-of-the-art GSI Studios at which it was recorded. Harland has been both Eigsti’s trusted sideman and later bandleader since 2006. “About 40% of the album has vocals,” Eigsti points out. It’s a nice representation of his extensive work with vocalists such as Lisa Fischer, Sachal Vasandani, Stevens, and Gretchen Parlato, with whom Eigsti toured for many years and is also featured on Tree Falls. Ben Wendel and Sam Sadigursky layer various woodwinds throughout the album, which also features a full layered string section, comprised of Hamilton Berry, Emilie-Anne Gendron, and recent GRAMMY winner Nathan Schram.
Wendel described his friend Eigsti as being “hyper, hyper-organized” and having “a very clear vision of what he wants.” “You can hear his vision from beginning to end,” Harland observes. “Taylor has a brilliant mind, a very genius-oriented type of mind. He’s always been that way, and I’ve always thought, ‘Man, if I can ever give him the space for all that to come out, I will.’ And now people are going to hear the product of that and be reminded how amazing he truly is.”