Chemistry makes magic

E.S.L. performs uniquely orchestrated songs inspired by everything from Polish cabaret to Neil Young to name a few.

E.S.L. will perform Nov. 20 at the Waverley Hotel.

E.S.L. will perform Nov. 20 at the Waverley Hotel.

E.S.L. performs uniquely orchestrated songs inspired by everything from Polish cabaret to Neil Young to the Beastie Boys and Velvet underground, to name a few.

Their chemistry translates into magical live performances that range from roaring Prohibition-era dance numbers to heartbreaking ballads.

E.S.L. is a fusion of players who could each claim top billing anywhere else. But there’s no room for egos here.

Instead, we get an incomparable band that includes Polish-born pianist and singer Marta Jacubek-McKeever (Girl Nobody); noted Cree cellist Cris Derksen; fiddler Diona Davies (Po’Girl, Carolyn Mark, Be Good Tanyas) and drummer Joy Mullen (The People Verses, The Doers, Greg MacPherson). Separately, their credentials are impressive, together, they’re divine.

The Vancouver-based group was formed in 2005 when Jacubek-McKeever (Polish-born pianist and singer of Girl Nobody fame) and Derksen found musical kinship in each other. Mullen joined on drums (The People Verses) soon after. Tess Kitchen recently joined the group and plays trumpet.

A rising star on the Canadian classical/jazz/folk/pop/ electronica/what-have-you scenes, cellist Derksen is known for captivating solo performances building layers of sound into often-surprisingly slamming dance music.

On her debut solo effort, the 13 tracks range from classically oriented, multi-tracked soundscapes (“We Danced Movement I & II”) to upbeat party bumps inspired by her half-Cree ancestry (“Pow wow wow”) and hybridized pieces that sound readymade for climatic moments in art or cinema.

As a side player, Cris has performed with hip hop star Kanye West, Veda Hille, Tanya Tagaq, Kinnie Starr, Lightening Dust (Black Mountain), Rae Spoon, Leela Gilday and Ivan Coyote.

Eye Contact is the stirring debut CD from E.S.L., one of those magic projects conceived in the musical chemistry among first-class artists. A wealth of chops and inspiration come together here, bringing ideas from all over and bending them into an album that ranges across the emotional map. From lavish to swinging, the songs are a gypsy blend that is at times playful and at others heartrending.

For more about the band, visit

This an early show starting Nov. 20 at 9:30 p.m. Come and sample the Waverley’s new menu and listen to this great music through the Waverley’s magnificent new JBL sound system.


— Cumberland Village Works



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