Plot Armor
Release Date: March 1, 2024
Label: GroundUP

Plot Armor continues Eigsti's winning approach of showcasing eleven of his original compositions plus a standard. With ace string arrangements by Andrew Balogh, its orchestral lushness showcases Eigsti's compositional prowess and his experiences sharing the bandstand with the Turtle Island String Quartet as a member of Blanchard's E-Collective band (along with Altura, Ginyard and Seaton). "The Rumor" began as an improvisation between Eigsti and Turtle Island violist Benni von Gutzeit. 

"Andrew really turned these string arrangements into one of the most important components of this whole record," Eigsti reflects. "I’ve written a lot of music for symphony orchestra over the years, and Andrew added such a beautiful dimension to these tunes with his orchestrations that captures a cinematic quality throughout.”

"Let You Bee" (a song which Eigsti describes as a tribute to a bumblebee that wouldn’t leave him alone) opens Plot Armor and comes to a conclusion with a masterful Altura mini-masterclass in guitar. "Charles personifies the bee," Eigsti points out. "You hear him soloing towards the end of that tune, and he becomes like the bee, free to buzz around wherever he pleases."

"Taylor just does such a great job of setting up a creative space for everyone to collaborate and feel so natural," Altura says. "He's a master at bringing his different communities together."

"Look Around You" was adapted from Eigsti's ambitious "Imagine Our Future" Hewlett 50 Arts Commission, which premiered in 2022 at the Community School of Music in Mountain View, CA and included the likes of Fischer, Kleinmann and Wendel. "The tune is about appreciating the little details that are around you," Eigsti shares. "Texturally, I wanted this piece to give the listener something different to tune into every time. So there are instruments that morph into other instruments and kind of pop out of nowhere to represent the little things around us that sometimes we don’t notice but make us who we are.” 

The title track is a philosophical theme that Eigsti has been pondering: "It's the concept of character protection within a story and just acknowledging there's a purpose in creating something that you might not understand yet," he explains. "There are a lot of analogies to my own life, the fact that I've outlived my immediate family. It feels there has to be a purpose for that. If you're out here surviving, there's a reason why.

"I come across those reasons all the time from different people who are affected by the music in a certain way," he continues. "Sometimes people will tell me they wrote something because they heard something I played. I think there's a chain reaction and purpose behind creating something and putting that music into the world that is important to have confidence in. It allows you then to write without fear knowing that the reason you created something will reveal itself much later on." 

"Light Dream" was written in honor of Wayne Shorter, who passed away on March 2, 2023. E-Collective has honored the saxophone titan and legendary composer, and Eigsti wanted to pay his respects with Blanchard on trumpet. "Wayne’s music makes me feel like I do when I fall asleep with the lights on and have different kinds of dreams with lucidity and inspiration.That’s where that title comes from," he reveals.

Eigsti's mother, Nancy, receives the first of two official tributes via "Fire Within," which is her posthumous debut as a lyricist. "She passed away just two weeks before I started recording this album," he recounts. Eigsti pondered taking a break for extended mourning but knew his mother would have wanted him to persevere. "My head and heart were so deeply in this record, and I carried that into this project.

"She was a damn good writer and never did anything with it. Going through all of her writings after she passed —her journals and diaries— allowed me to get to know her inner world better," he adds. "I found so many amazing phrases and metaphors in the way she wrote.

"I had no intention of recording 'Fire Within' when I started out the process of planning this record. It just demanded itself to be recorded. It tells her story in a way that I feel she would have been okay with. It meant a lot to record this with Lisa and Julian because I consider them like family, and the way Lisa went deep into my mom’s character in that piece is something that I’ll always remember.”

"'Beyond the Blue,' with Gretchen's lyrics, literally deals with loss and the beyond," Eigsti says, of the second song to honor his mother. (The Japanese version of Plot Armor contains an interpretation of "Nancy with the Smiling Face"—understandably his mother's favorite standard.)

As a child prodigy growing up on the Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, Eigsti memorized, interpreted and performed many a standard. His take on "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" may reflect back on that part of his youth. But it does from a decidedly grown up perspective. 

"I've genuinely been obsessed with the lyrics of 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,'" he admits. "The later you get into the verses, the more real it gets. It's cool because there's an evolution from where at the start you see someone totally transfixed on someone else. And then they're examining pros and cons. By the end, it's 'Bewitched, bothered and bewildered no more,' which I think is an important resolution, so I treated it like a breakup song."

Though Plot Armor sounds relaxed and like it was captured in a series of live group sessions, it's another heavily layered production that's a testament to Eigsti's well-organized work ethic as a bandleader and independent musician. "For Tree Falls, I basically got everything done in six tracking days. And with this, it was a total of about 70 days in the studio with more like 20 to 30 tracking days of just adding different things," he says. "We really did this gradually, with different sessions in both in L.A. and New York.

"I'm lucky to have found a really incredibly cool open-minded bunch of people who encourage exploration and discovery and new music," he concludes. "And there's such a great cast of folks on GroundUP. I'm already a big fan of a lot of their music and am friends with so many people on their label that it just feels like another family."

For Plot Armor

"Plot Armor continues Eigsti’s approach of showcasing 11 of his original compositions plus a standard." Read the full review here.

Check out the full review in Japanese here.

"If you're looking for full-bodied jazz with heavy layering and forward-looking movement, you'll find the 6:07 opening track, “Let You Bee”, will fill the bill… it is (without question) my personal favorite of the thirteen tantalizing jazz experiences offered up." Check out the full review here.

"Blurring the lines between classical, jazz, and even a few hints of pop, Eigsti delivers a sumptuous offering, punctuated with heartfelt emotion on several tracks." Read the full review here.

"Following Tree Falls, the 2022 GRAMMY winner for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, the pianist/composer is back with another strong contender..." Read the full review here.

Check out this feature on the editor's top ten albums list here.

"'The Rumor' is the best of the more orchestrated tracks and there's strong input from members of Blanchard's E-Collective band in the rhythm section..." Read the full review here.

Check out this feature on the editor's playlist here.

"“Plot Armor” continues Taylor Eigsti's winning approach by featuring eleven of his original compositions as well as a standard." Check out the full review in French here.

Check out the full interview here.

"The beauty of Taylor Eigsti’s compositions draws from both classical culture and his love of jazz, with compositions featuring complex architecture and arrangements imbued with a cinematic lightness." Check out the full review here.

Check out this feature on the editor's playlist here.

"Now 39 and a Grammy-winning musician, Eigsti has released an album called Plot Armor that I dare say will go down as one of the better jazz releases of 2024." Check out the full review here.

"Eigsti has a wide palette on which to express his expanding musical concepts. His arrangements are expansive and incorporate changing rhythmic time signatures, multiple tonal accents, and lush musical harmonies." Check out the full review here.

Check out this review in Japanese here.

Check out this insightful interview here.

"Album Grammy winner for his Tree Falls, man aged to feature half of Plot Armor’s 20 musicians between the two gigs" Check out the full feature here.

"A full orchestral album may be in Eigsti’s future. In the meantime, he’s gotten a lush sound on his past two albums by having the string section replay parts from different areas of the studio. " Check out the full feature here.