Russ Lossing: All Things Arise (2007)
Russ Lossing is a pianist of extreme depth and intensity whose music exists between jazz improvisation and modern classicism. All Things Arise will only cement this impression. His previous records include the marvelous Metal Rat (Clean Feed, 2006) with Mat Maneri and Mark Dresser, and the intense As It Grows (HatOLOGY, 2004) with Ed Schuller and Paul Motian.
This time, however, Lossing is on solo piano, which only increases the intensity since every aspect of the sounds and emotions presented is in the soloist's hands. The piano used is very good and the recording quality impeccable, leading to a "you are there" experience. The intensity level, but not the volume, is very high, and real concentration is required of the listener.
A listener so inclined will be rewarded with playing of amazing dexterity and a feeling of total control despite the rapid-fire nature of the presentation of ideas. As pure sound, the music is quite wonderful as Lossing explores the full range of the piano while getting many textures and densities from it. He is a master of the sustain pedal and at one point, when both hands are playing a fast, tight repeated figure, holds it down to create a music wave which rises up out of the speakers and then crashes.
Lossing's playing is much more than just sound painting, however. He has a way with musical space and time that brings the listener inside the music. The space is represented both as the separation of notes in time and as the musical distance between notes, while time is deeper than mere pulse, getting closer to the relationship of the notes as they flow. Form and development, while abstract, is created by how space and time are always changing, not randomly but rather with an intent that can be intuited.
The record is broken up into two distinct parts. The first is a suite of four pieces improvised in the moment and the second is six improvisations on compositions by Duke Ellington ("Azure"), Sonny Rollins ("Pent-Up House"), Ornette Coleman ("Kathelin Grey"), Kurt Weill ("Alabama Song") and Lossing himself ("Verse"). The distinction between totally free improvisation and improvisation that is quite free while maintaining touch with its base will be quite apparent regardless of whether or not the tunes are familiar.
Ellington's "Azure" was played twice and recorded sequentially, but split on the record to be the first and last tunes of the second part. This arrangement is quite fortuitous as they are played differently. The second version is much closer to a classic jazz improvisation, and serves to put not only the first version, but also the other tunes' treatments in perspective.
The music of All Things Arise would be an almost overwhelming experience live, and we should be thankful to be able to hear these ephemeral yet deep creations many times over.
Track Listing: Suite: All Things Arise (All Things Arise, Interdependence, From Within, Causes); Azure 1; Pent-Up House; Kathelin Grey; Alabama Song; Verse; Azure 2.
Personnel: Russ Lossing: piano.