Photo by Michelle Arcila Opsvik

Sweet Beyond Witness

Sweet Beyond Witness is an album of solo piano compositions and spoken word, slated for release in the fall of 2018. Written and performed around the idea of what it means to witness beauty in the world, amidst the devastation of our current administration, it is Cardinaux’s baring/bearing witness to the latent destruction going on amidst that beauty − informed by a political process, a poetic process, and musical process of editing, composing, and improvising; to trace experience − lifting in and out of “it” in order to see, from a bird’s-eyes angle: potential.

Preview video for the track “Sunspring,” from Sweet Beyond Witness

American Thicket

Eliot Cardinaux, piano and spoken word / Mat Maneri, viola / Thomas Morgan, bass / Flin van Hemmen, drums

American Thicket is an improvised music and poetry project led by pianist, composer and poet Eliot Cardinaux. The band creates surrealistic landscapes and narrative tone poems, with through-composed instrumental chorales and improvised interludes interspersed throughout. Incorporating influences from jazz, free music, modern classical idioms, and folk musics, the group improvises freely off of poems written by Cardinaux, teasing out the vivid verbal images in sound. In the tradition of all American folk musics, oral traditions and the blues, the poems tell stories through the allegory of self vs. other. Influences include Albert Camus, Mahmoud Darwish, Yusef Komunyakaa, John Ashbery, Joe Maneri and Eric Dolphy.

The album is available on CD through the Loyal Label website:

and as a download on Bandcamp:

Magpie: Six Feet on Solid Ground

Eliot Cardinaux – piano, voice, poetry / Asger Thomsen – bass, objects / Jeppe Høi Justesen – drums, percussion, cymbals

Having met during a two-week festival stint in Boston organized by their pianist in conjunction with Danish drum legend Kresten Osgood, and later again at a festival put together by their bassist in Copenhagen, Asger Thomsen, Eliot Cardinaux, and Jeppe Høi Justesen are naturally inclined to support one another. Much of their music is loose, the ensemble’s warmth and conversational approach to free-improvisation threading a dialogue through the many resilient personae of their poet’s palette.

Magpie soon offers up its first recorded effort as a trio on vinyl, a brutally honest call to attention, with “Six Feet on Solid Ground.” Stay tuned!

The Gown of Entry

Alec Harper, tenor sax / Eliot Cardinaux, piano, spoken word / Aaron Edgcomb, drums

A collaborative trio that met during their final year at the New England Conservatory in the fall of 2015, The Gown of Entry has worked in an improvised setting ever since. The group’s members, Alec Harper (tenor saxophone), Eliot Cardinaux (piano, spoken word), and Aaron Edgcomb (drums, percussion, cymbals), interlace both brightly lyrical and somber melodies through open gestures of form, infiltrating texture and silence alike, crafting resonant, panoramic palettes threaded with lines of their pianist’s original poetry.

The group’s first record (self-titled) is a dramatic sequence of narrative episodes and events, with song-like melodic refrains, poems enveloped in extended sound-worlds, and hard-hitting, forward-thinking riffs bringing home a clear message of urgency and empathy. You can find it here:

Odysseus Alone

Kresten Osgood, drums / Thomas Morgan, bass / Eliot Cardinaux, piano and poetry

In late winter of 2014, Danish drummer Kresten Osgood invited Eliot Cardinaux to record duo and trio improvisations along with bassist Thomas Morgan at Peter Karl Studios in Brooklyn. The sounds they made are filled with humor, depth, and humility. Kresten performs on drums and percussion, Thomas on upright bass, and Eliot plays piano, also weaving poems he has written into the music. This record was released as a cassette on the Insula Music label in Denmark, and is titled ‘Odysseus Alone.’ Find it at the link below, or visit the Insula Record Shop when you’re in Copenhagen!

LINK: Odysseus Alone…


Eliot Cardinaux, piano / Flin van Hemmen, drums

Flin van Hemmen and Eliot Cardinaux began collaborating in New York in 2004. They spent 4 close months in Amsterdam during this very formative time in each of their musical development. In 2011, they took to the studio and recorded a full length album. The resulting music is at times gruff and urgent, at others patient and lyrical, always expressive and warmly impressionistic, comprised of free improvisations and compositions by both members. You can find the release on Bandcamp, at:

Dyberg / Cardinaux / Dörner / Thomsen

This collaborative quartet featuring the legendary Berlin trumpet player Axel Dörner, along with his younger contemporary, the heated saxophonist Mia Dyberg, also living in Berlin, as well as the highly innovative bassist and sound-sculptor Asger Thomsen, and the poetry and piano playing of Eliot Cardinaux, evokes a highly controlled style of imaginative listening in which each choice the musicians make as improvisers has a profound affect on how the music evolves and is charged with meaning.

Cardinaux / Engel / Thomsen / Nillesen

A quartet with Danish bassist Asger Thomsen, and Köln residents, Jonas Engel (saxophone), and Etienne Nillesen (prepared snare), this group provides an array of sounds based in friction, texture, and density, allowing the submerged poetic narrative of their pianist Eliot Cardinaux to surface through outbursts of refined vocal expression. Pure business.

The Cemented Image

Concrete Poetry of Eliot Cardinaux

Eliot Cardinaux has penned nine short collections of poetry to date. If one aspect of his poetry is its imagism, or the images contained within it, another is the concrete form it takes as varying assemblages of words on a page. Cardinaux’s poems are often images themselves, formed of words. This proposed selection of work will focus on these aspects of his writing.

“The Cemented Image” is a term Cardinaux uses to describe his attempt at breaking down the unyielding normalcy by which we continuously and unconsciously attain rote meaning from existence. Through imagistic, concrete poetry, Cardinaux tries to detonate the center of a hard-layered totalitarian reality, to conceive of forms that are paradoxically formless in nature, such as movement, memory, desire, and like one of his heroes, the Chinese menglong poet Bei Dao called: Forms of Distance. Cardinaux’s poems attempt to shatter the monotonous sameness that pervades modern life, making tangible those forces that are more reliable to serve the reader.

This selection of poems from Cardinaux’s written work to date will include poetry from Guide to Torment, time’schange, The Gown of Entry, 21 Leaves, Still Life, A Future Companion, and Nativity.

No Dreams Here

Eliot Cardinaux, solo piano

No Dreams Here spans a variety of musical traditions from which Cardinaux draws influence, from Ellington to Alban Berg. The compositions span a wide area, from impressionistic and expressionistic platforms for improvisation, to late romantic and serialist-inflected through-composed works. In this writing Cardinaux employs a rich, lyrical melodicism and a close-knit counterpoint. Eight of these pieces were recorded in March of 2013, along with one composition by his longtime collaborator, trumpeter and composer Daniel Levine. The album was released as a digital download. You can find it here, at:


In addition to his musical work, Eliot Cardinaux has penned 15 collections of poetry to Leaning Against the Mystery, The Virgin Clock, Guide to Torment, Treebones and Riddlepieces, time’schangeThe Gown of Entry, 21 LeavesStill Life, A Future Companion, Our Hearts as ThievesNativity, Mouth Like Straw, the Hand Half-Blind, Moon and Politics on a Glass Table, Mother of Two, and Butterfly, Seed. He briefly studied poetry from 2015-2016 under Ruth Lepson, a faculty member at the New England Conservatory and a former student of Anne Sexton and Robert Creeley. Cardinaux would cite among his influences the Russian Acmeist poet Osip Mandelstam, French surrealist poet René Char, and post-war German-language poet Paul Celan, among many others.

For samples of Eliot Cardinaux’s poetry, visit the Poetry portion of this site.