Jon De Lucia Group: Face No Face (2006)
Whether you're into swing, hard bop, free jazz or M-Base, jazz has and always will be about emotion, interplay and spontaneity. On this debut album, saxophonist Jon De Lucia dazzles not only with his virtuosity and compositional skills, but also with his ability to convey emotion through probing, focused melodic statements and the sublime coherence of his band.
The album starts with the pulsing, M-Base groove of "Glass Bead Game, an odd-metered anthem with an angular melody over the dynamic drumming of Ziv Ravitz and the persistent ostinato of Nir Felder's guitar and Garth Stevenson's bass. De Lucia's lithe alto emerges from the busy opening section to introduce a second theme that clears the air for Felder's guitar to build. Over a boomy bass pedal and mantra-like alto figure, the guitarist starts with single, sustained notes before unleashing a torrent of virtuosic runs and jarring rhythmic suspensions.
Following the atonal blues of "Emptiness and a couple of M-Base tunes, De Lucia pays homage to his love of Zen and Eastern thought with "Edo Komoriuta and "Yugen. The first, a Japanese lullaby, features contemplative alto in tandem with Sumie Kaneko's koto and shamisen. The leader's distinctive tone resonates before being joined by the metallic pluck of Kaneko's traditional string instruments and Ravitz's sparse bell accompaniment. "Yugen, a modal ballad, features the cry of alto over the pulsing mallets and plucked colorations.
Face No Face ends with "The Open Eye, an adrenaline-laden blowing piece, and the standard "I Wish I Knew. After earlier extended solos and rhythmic extrapolations, "I Wish I Knew is striking in its utter simplicity. The melody, faithfully rendered by De Lucia, sings out over Leo Genovese's sensitive piano and puts a serene cap on an impressive debut.
This group, minus Genovese and Kaneko, played at Vox Pop, a coffee shop/music venue in Brooklyn, on a rainy night last month. The quartet was even more impressive in person, performing many pieces from the album and taking even more chances. De Lucia's precise rhythmic phrases had a captivating urgency and his Zen-like state seemed to be shared by his bandmates. The youthful ensemble navigated breakneck tempos and odd meters with veteran ease, and the modest crowd responded strongly to a rare degree of group cohesion.
Track Listing: The Glass Bead Game; Emptiness; Really; Amir, The Brain Kid; Edo Komoriuta; Yugen; The Open Eye; I Wish I Knew.
Personnel: Jon De Lucia: saxes; Nir Felder: guitar; Leo Genevese: piano; Garth Stevenson: bass; Ziv Ravitz: drums; Sumie Kaneko: koto and shamisen.