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Saxophonist Jody Espina and guitarist Rolf Sturm have played together since the early 1990’s, performing in many different ensembles. They’ve toured North America with the Illuminati big band and performed in the NYC area with Feed The Meter and The Walter Thompson Orchestra. In 1997 Jody Espina was asked to create a soundtrack for a presentation on homelessness. He collaborated with Rolf to record a three tune medley for the occasion. It is included on “One World” simply entitled “Trilogy”. This musical experience was so strong that it lead to further collaborations by the duo. During many informal playing sessions, they had the wherewithal to “let the tape roll”. After a period of time, more than enough material for a CD had been amassed. “ONE WORLD” is a collection of songs and spontaneous improvisations that cover an inordinate amount of ground.

Jody and Rolf occasionally perform as a duo in the NYC area.

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ONE WORLD (WSM-116) 

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From jazzreview.com:
JODY ESPINA/ROLF STURM-ONE WORLD
WSM-116
Musicians: Jody Espina (penny whistle, Native American flute, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax, midi sequencing), Rolf Sturm (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, guitar synth, percussion, voice, flute)

Review: One World is a composite of excerpts and compositions from the pens of master musicians Jody Espina and Rolf Sturm. The title suggests world music, but it is more an interpretation of culture done in an improvised jazz/new music/new wave manner rather than laden with actual ‘world’ music influences.

Espina and Sturm are both superb players and improvisers, with Espina covering saxophone, clarinet and flute parts, and Sturm laying down acoustic and electric guitar, percussion and vocal tracks. It’s a gorgeous duo sound that clearly reveals a strong connection between the two, and is rather unusual instrumentally, offering a texturally satisfying listening experience.

There is often a synthesized foundation laid down with the improvisation sitting on top, but this layering detracts from the beauty of the acoustic instrumentation in most cases. The cuts that feature the players without the synthesized beds are exciting and present, and are delivered in a clean, genuine format that stimulates the listener to get the imagination and heart involved. Some cuts are excerpts taken from other improvised performances and recordings the duo have created, some spontaneously erupt and are documented ‘live’ to tape, while others are complete compositions.

The whole was produced in a simple recording environment, often with one microphone in the room, with several of the improvisational concepts being expounded upon in this informal setting and letting “the tape roll.” Yet by far the tracks that are fully developed compositions are superior, bringing the focus on the performances of these talented players. This is best illustrated in cuts such as “Back Home,” an ethereal and emotional track with tenor sax and guitar symbiotically evolving the composition, and “Rain’s End,” a mournful, sparse, and exceedingly honest tribute to two great jazz figures who’ve passed, Max Gordon, the owner of the Village Vanguard, and Woody Shaw, legendary trumpeter/composer/bandleader. That is not to diminish these players talents as improvisers, for with “When Camels Dream,” a free, spontaneous and highly creative work featuring Espina’s lush bass clarinet over Sturm’s guitar-synthesizer, and “Fly Jam,” a funky, quirky guitar-synthesizer solo excerpt, they offer two fine examples of their highly creative approach and truly step out.

All in all, this recording is a beautifully performed, lovingly produced collection of work by these two fine New York based musicians. Don’t be fooled by the title and expect to hear cultural diversity in rhythm or instrumentation, but you won’t be disappointed if you keep in mind it’s created in the new music or new wave genres with jazz overtones. There’s no doubt Espina and Sturm have a broad knowledge of their instruments and are both fine composers, but they also share a combined spiritual depth with us with their ‘One World’.
Tracks: Trilogy, Search For Sita, Saharah, Erin Go Bragh, Back Home, Candle Song, When Camels Dream, Rain’s End, Folk Song, Fly Jam, Moonwalk, Native Dance

Reviewed by: Cindy McLeod