Alex LoRe Trio: Dream House
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Dream House is the excellent debut release by the Alex LoRe Trio, nearly an hour of beautiful music from LoRe on alto sax, Desmond White on bass, and Colin Stranahan on drums. LoRe hails from Florida, and in addition to formal studies at New England Conservatory of Music and Manhattan School of Music, he's worked with a number of luminous saxophone mentors, including Lee Konitz, James Moody, Steve Wilson, and the venerable Bunky Green. LoRe has been paying his dues in New York City venues big and small, including a seat with Lucas Pino's "No Net" Nonet, which is currently in residency at Smalls Jazz Club.
The other members of the group bring their own unique background to the triangle. White hails from Australia, where he built a successful career in the jazz and rock worlds, eventually making the leap to America to attend Manhattan School of Music and join the New York scene. As for Stranahan, he is one of the finest drummers of his generation, so it's always a good sign when his name appears on the credits: he grew up in the fertile Denver jazz scene and already has numerous releases and accolades under his belt, including graduating from the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. The three musicians are members of the "No Net" Nonet and have also played as a trio for several years; they've worked hard to develop their sound and meld into a musical one-mind, and this first-rate release on Greg Osby's Inner Circle Music is the fruit of their labor thus far.
One of the reasons that Dream House succeeds so well is that it is infused by a personal vision. As LoRe says in his liner notes, everyone has a dream house, a golden plan for their future, but obstacles and difficulties often destroy this imaginary world. Probably nobody knows this better than artists, especially jazz musicians trying to make a living in New York City. But clearly LoRe has embraced the challenges and persevered, even when life turned out otherwise; as he writes, "It is through this transformation that a new path emerges." Thus the music is about dreams and the way they often shatter, but it's also about the surprising beauty that can emerge on the other side.
It's clear from the eight songs on Dream House that LoRe is reaping the rewards of his journey. The album opens with LoRe's "Amnesia," where the trio is joined by tenor saxophonist George Garzone, another one of LoRe's mentors. The tune features a wonderful arrangement with intertwining lines and sublime harmonies that echo Gerry Mulligan's pianoless quartet. LoRe's solo is a delight; his tone is strong and pure, and there's a deliciously cool swing to his lines. It's not surprising that LoRe has worked with Konitz, because that's clearly his lineage; he's a fine modern descendant of the line of saxophonists that goes back to Lester Young, the coolest of them all. Garzone puts in an inspired solo as well, keeping in touch with the song's light-as-air feeling, but letting some John Coltrane-enthused riffs emerge. The song's effervescent swing is kept aloft by White and Stranahan, who provide steady, tasteful cooking.
Other standouts include White's "Here Comes Tomorrow," a gently optimistic piece with an appealing lilt. LoRe's lines are full of pleasing intricacies, and the rhythm section creates a low-key but powerful engine throughout. "December Song" by LoRe has an elegant tinge of melancholy. LoRe's solo is free-floating and relaxed, accented by tiny touches of dissonance, and White and Stranahan provide rhythmic cushions that bolster but never overwhelm. The tune is full of quietly unexpected directions within both the melodies and the solos, keeping the music interesting and bright. "Dream House" is a full-bodied statement about LoRe's journey of dreaming, losing, and finding. As in the rest of the album, there's an attractive thoughtfulness here, an intriguing gentleness that's a pleasure to experience. This song is the longest one on the album, and the band shows additional colors, starting out quietly but getting more intense and up-tempo as the song progresses. The piece ends on a joyful note that has a buoyant hopefulness, offering sight of the new path mentioned by LoRe in the liner notes.
The album's showstopper is LoRe's inspired arrangement of Duke Ellington's "Tonight I Shall Sleep." The tune begins with a sparse introduction that showcases the trio's talent: White offers expressive bowing, LoRe's sax is as refined as a flute, and Stranahan provides a splendid array of cymbal shivers and delicate rolls. LoRe then eases into the melody, playing with an emotional honesty that's a pleasure to behold. Ellington's sinuous version features his wondrous orchestra as well as the great Tommy Dorsey, but LoRe has managed to extract the essence of the tune, revealing a lovely melody that's just a little sad. The group plays with a heartbreaking economy, and their exquisite pacing allows the song to unfold at an easy pace. There's also a nice bass solo by White, who gives his notes freedom to resonate within the song's tender atmosphere. It's a truly gorgeous tune, deeply felt with a slow, poignant allure.
It takes a fair amount of grit and determination to be a jazz musician in today's world. But thank goodness there are musicians like the Alex LoRe Trio, who persevere through the obstacles and the disappointments, and finally make it to the other side. Dream House is full of tasteful, intelligent music that's also warm and swinging. The album has moments of pure beauty, belying a depth of experience and thoughtfulness that's always a treasure to encounter.
Track Listing: Amnesia; Here Comes Tomorrow; December Song; Tonight I Shall Sleep; Dream House; Too Soon; Forward; Buto.
Personnel: Alex LoRe: alto saxophone; Desmond White: bass; Colin Stranahan: drums; George Garzone: tenor saxophone (1, 7, 8).
Record Label: Inner Circle Music
Style: Modern Jazz