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In something of a departure for the Lithuanian No Business label, young San Francisco-born, NYC-based reedman Steven Lugerner presents a LP of his thoughtfully arranged charts. To breathe life into the notation, Lugerner has assembled a talented crew, which he carefully deploys in varying combinations across the ten cuts. Not only that but he also overdubs himself in places to create a woodwind chorus and orchestral scale touches.
On trumpet, Bay Area resident Darren Johnston veers between melodic extemporizations and timbral effects, while pianist Myra Melford reminds us why she is such an in-demand performer, taking cameo roles on two numbers which bookend the bulk of the 33-minute program: the concise but sprightly "Us and Our Fathers" and magnificently dashing "Our Children in Time." However drummer Matt Wilson proves the key figure, as his tuned cadences and pinpoint meter provide the main unifying features. It's harder to get a fix on the leader, as he switches between a battery of horns, ranging from pure-toned soprano saxophone to gallumphing bass clarinet.
In fact Lugerner's conception furnishes the prime talking point. He has fashioned a suite-like work, comprising multiple short tracks, best appreciated as a whole. It's not about wild solos. Most are pithy, tuneful and fitted to the contours of the piece, as exemplified by "When a Long Blast is Sounded" which begins with martial drums and stately piano. A lilting trumpet statement emerges from a unison with clarinet, but quickly merges with looser drum rhythms, before the drums take the piece out. When a brief passage of edgy interplay transpires on "All Those Kings" it signals a departure and indicates a potentially fertile sphere for future investigation, whereby the talented crew exert more leeway within the attractive arrangements.
Track Listing: Us and Our Fathers; When a Long Blast is Sounded; Drove Out Before Us; Be Strong and Resolute; Before Our Very Eyes; Through Whose Midst We Passed; For We Have Heard; Up From The Land; All Those Kings; Our Children in Time.
Personnel: Steven Lugerner: Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe, English horn, soprano and alto saxophones, flute, alto flute; Darren Johnston: trumpet; Myra Melford: piano; Matt Wilson: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.