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Lena Bloch & Feathery: Heart Knows

Dan McClenaghan By

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Lena Bloch mocks the "sophomore jinx" myth with her second CD release, Heart Knows. The tenor saxophonist's debut, Feathery, drew a good deal of well-deserved praise. With her saxophone intertwined with a responsive guitar/bass/drums rhythm section, Bloch paid tribute—in part—to pianist Lennie Tristano, via her relationship with alto saxophonist Lee Lee Konitz. On Heart Knows, Bloch moves along in the same loose groove, adding at times some flexible Middle-Eastern motifs, and stretching her own compositional skills to the highest limits, having penned four of the eight tunes on the disc.

The set kicks off with the twelve minute "Lateef Suite," drawing inspiration from another of Bloch's mentors, Yusef Lateef. Like almost all of Bloch's music, there is a sense of mystery, of slinking through the dark streets on this extended novella, and it introduces the guitar's replacement in her quartet, the piano of Russ Lossing. On Feathery, Dave Millar's guitar gave the sound a crisp, metallic tang, lending a sense of modernity to the music. Lossing's piano injects a warmth, a heightened improvisational melodicism, and a quirky individualism that makes the experience sound timeless. The story of the"Lateef Suite" is one of two narrators—Bloch and Lossing—taking turns laying down what sound like elusive but profound truths inside the understated hosannas of drummer Billy Mintz and bassist Cameron Brown.

Heart Knows is an unwaveringly cohesive set. Pianist Lossing wrote half the eight tunes here. He and Bloch seem be of like musical minds. Lossing's "French Twist," clocks in at near thirteen minutes. Like all the music here, it seems like a story, labyrinthine and elastic. It also sounds as sad as can be, not unlike—in mood—the heartbreaking Gordon Jenkins' standard, "Goodbye." Indeed, it feels like someone saying goodbye, for good, through a gauze of lingering love.

The odd, flexible, bone-deep gorgeousness of the two extended pieces—"Lateef Suite" and "French Twist"—is stunning. Twenty-five minutes of beauty that's easy to get stuck on. There's a sense that these were conceived as more compact experiences that grew in length out of the sympatico and improvisational acumen of the quartet. Apart from these two near masterpieces, there's another forty-five minutes of first rate music on Heart Knows, all of it complex, compelling and beautiful, sounds of the highest quality and inspiration laid down by a premier jazz quartet.

Track Listing: Lateef Suite; Heart Knows; Three Treasures; French Twist; Esmeh; Counter Clockwise; Munir; Newfoundsong.

Personnel: Lena Bloch: tenor saxophone; Russ Lossing: piano; Cameron Brown: bass; Billy Mintz: drums.

Title: Heart Knows | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent

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