The Deep End Ensemble is a perfect example of the eclectic, open nature of certain trends in contemporary improvised music. The four musicians who make up the group are finely trained, and they are at home in many different settings from classical to rock. As is often the case today, the instrumentation is idiosyncratic. The leader, Ian Ash, plays a variety of percussion instruments, primarily the marimba, which is rarely heard in jazz. Most listeners will be more familiar with its electric cousin, the vibraphone, which has metal bars and can sustain sounds; the marimba's bars are made of wood and produce only short notes. The marimba is often used in late-twentieth-century and contemporary classical music but is rarely heard in jazz. The oboe and English horn, played here by Eddy Rollin, are also rarely heard outside of the classical realm (although Yusef Lateef has recorded some mean oboe blues). The ensemble also uses an acoustic bass (Wilbo Wright) and an electric guitar (Bruce Eisenbeil).
The instrumental combination of the Deep End Ensemble guarantees a sonic individuality, but the core of its musical expression lies in the conceptualization of the group and in the manner in which these instruments are played. In the musicians' own words, the intention is to blend "twenty-first-century music theory, experimental counterpoint, exotic harmony, global rhythms, dimensional music elements, spontaneous improvisations, and authentic emotions to form evolving sound structures." The quartet achieves this by combining composition and improvisation, exploiting various instrumental techniques and alternating between different rhythmic forms, but also by means of a strongly shared sense of ensemble interaction. This is group music in which deep listening is the key.