Jessica Lurie: Drive & Licorice & Smoke

Celeste Sunderland By

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The Tiptons

Jessica Lurie
Licorice & Smoke

The Tiptons, that notorious, all-female saxophone quartet from Seattle, have a tremendous amount of fun playing together. Throw on any of the group's albums, released by their former band The Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet (named for a woman saxophonist/pianist who lived as a man for 50 years), or their new disc Drive and the good times come pouring out of the speakers.

Their brand of bliss is not the fluffy type though. No, it's the kind of joy that burrows through the floorboards, on the coattails of Toni Stone's baritone, Tina Richerson's tenor, Jessica Lurie's tenor and alto and Amy Denio's alto. Denio's firm, sultry vocals touch on a mix of fado ache and Balkan desire on "Zemrude ; and Elizabeth Pupo-Walker's percussion creates an alternate atmosphere on the down-tempo waltz of "Ro and the Latin sway of "Hands Down . The title track is wild yet gentle and "Bye, Hoolie gyrates with a gypsy flair highlighted by the long quivers of Denio's melismatic vocals.

Saxophone solos are saturated with substance, but the starring detail, expertly portrayed on Drive, is The Tipton's ability to compose and bring to fruition, truly original and compelling music with each other.

Another album recently released that lingers among the upper echelon of originality is Jessica Lurie's new solo disc Licorice & Smoke. Despite the charming "Ba-Di-Ya-Da-Di singing that begin "Ha-Ha the first track, the disc starts out sounding merely like a sophisticated folk-rock venture. But before too long, the saxophonist meanders into rather chaotic madness, before plunging into total fearless abandon. Her own sax lines, alternating between languorously soothing and cataclysmic, are aided by the oft wicked electric and lapsteel guitar solos of Nels Cline, reaching a peak during "Strong Coffee .

Dan Cantrell offers puckish European glamour with his accordion, contributing to the exceptionally varied landscape. Witness the dusty twang of "Up From The Bottom Of A Well , the arid psychedelia of "Patzer , and the dirty guitar/saxophone entanglements of "Baby Yaga's Seven League Boots .

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Alma; Zemrude; SnoDog; Ro; Beppo's; Drive; Hands Down; 12 Days; Bye, Hoolie; Gemini Rising.

Personnel: Toni Stone: baritone sax; Tina Richerson: tenor sax; Jessica Lurie: tenor and alto sax; Amy Denio: alto sax.

Licorice & Smoke

Tracks: Ha-Ha; 70% Bittersweet; Up From The Bottom of the Well; The Pace That You Come From; Mexico; Solitaria; Patzer; Strong Coffee; Kroz Prozor; Didn't Leave Nobody But the Baby; Southeastern Drive; Baba Yaga's Seven League Boots.

Personnel: Jessica Lurie: tenor and alto sax; Nels Cline: guitar; Dan Cantrell: accordion.

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