Photo by Michelle Arcila Opsvik

Sweet Beyond Witness

Sweet Beyond Witness is a suite of 21 pieces for solo piano and spoken word, released in August, 2018 with accompanying writings and film. Written and performed around the idea of what it means to witness beauty in the world, it is Cardinaux’s baring/bearing witness to the latent destruction going on amidst that beauty − informed by and informing a political process, a poetic process, and a 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.

View the film portion here:

To purchase the CD, chapbook, and/or download, visit:

American Thicket

Eliot Cardinaux, piano and spoken word / Mat Maneri, viola / Eivind Opsvik, 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:

As well as on CD and as a download on Bandcamp:


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.

This is anti-fascist free-punk. Played on acoustic instruments, with lots of screeching bows, clanging on the inner-strings; and no bells and whistles. Well, some actually. And Speechgrenades. Yep, you heard it. Explosive outbursts to outlie the times.

It’s Beefheart and Tom Waits meets Melt Banana sitting in the back row of a Keith Jarrett concert in Japan. And it’s going to do you some good.

In Autumn 2018 they will release their debut album ‘Six Feet On Solid Ground’.


Our Hearts as Thieves (Cardinaux / Engel / Thomsen / Nillesen)

This is a live album recorded the 12th of September 2017 in Cologne featuing poet/pianist Eliot Cardinaux (USA), alto saxophonist Jonas Engel (DE), drummer Etienne Nillesen (NL), and bass player Asger Thomsen (DK).

In September 2017 bass player Asger Thomsen invited Eliot Cardinaux to go on a tour in Europe to play with local musicisians in different cities – among them Mia Dyberg, Axel Dörner, Ole Mofjell, Kasper Tranberg, a.o. This album serves as documentation of a concert they did for a small crowd at Kunstwerk in Cologne featuring alto saxophonist Jonas Engel and drummer Etienne Nillesen who plays a particular extended snaredrum setup here. They didn’t make a lot of decisions before playing, but there was an immediate connection between the four, finding common ground in an ambient-acoustic approach, embracing extended techniques and prepared sounds on their instruments while giving space to Eliot’s voice which serves as a narrative anchor throughout the set. The music is abstract, dynamic, and expressive, filled with complex textures blending in and out of each other, sometimes making it hard to distinguish who’s playing what. Listening back to it a year after it was played it still sounds fresh to us, so now we would like to share it with you.

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, as well as the highly innovative Danish 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.

The Cemented Image

Concrete Poetry of Eliot Cardinaux

Eliot Cardinaux has penned 15 short collections of poetry to date. If one aspect of his poetry is its imagism, 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 them: 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.