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Alex LoRe And Weirdear: Karol

Dan Bilawsky By

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To simply read about it, Karol—saxophonist Alex LoRe's third album in total and first on the Challenge imprint—might seem weighted by its conceptual underpinning. Aiming to integrate "elements from Eurocentric and Black American music traditions," LoRe takes most of his inspirational cues from classical composers. Said ideal, for many, would simply lead to either academic exercise or quaint "swinging the classics" scenarios. LoRe doesn't succumb to either fate. Instead, he operates by his own rules and runes, using the seed material to open portals into his own imagination.

Fronting Weirdear—a felicitous, modernist gathering with pianist Glenn Zaleski, bassist Desmond White and drummer Allan Mednard—and augmenting the group with the addition of tenor saxophonist George Garzone on two tracks, LoRe is in his element. Any cerebral slants to compositional methodology are offset by fresh exploratory outlooks, and once the work leaves the paper it has a life apart. With "Orachle," LoRe uses Igor Stravinsky's Symphonies of Wind Instruments as a model for constructing unique rhythmic channels and harmonic hideaways. For the sprightly "Vanishing Act," this crew finds its way through a form based on "After You've Gone" while constructing a world built around LoRe's language and 16th century composer Maddelena Casulana's polyphonic pursuits. In "Light," the band explores and, subsequently, pummels the edges of J.S. Bach's beautiful chorale structures. And through "Karol," LoRe leverages the idiosyncratic angling in Polish/Swiss composer Karol Szymanowski's work.

LoRe's probing and self-assured alto makes additional reflections on classical means—"Casey Jones," taken with Charles Ives' signature blend of the sophisticated yet accessible American identity; "Color Wheel," where vibrant yet muted colors nod to Alexander Scriabin's synesthesia; "Eastman," with a quietly absorbing open field honoring post- minimalist Julius Eastman; and "Castaway," where sly gamesmanship and indeterminacy reckon with Henry Cowell's slanted vantage point and devious designs. But he also looks beyond those borders, opening the album with "Skyward," a composition playing off of variations on Zaleski's introductory piano figure, and a series of miniatures, each a self-contained statement on possibility.

Demonstrating that rare blend of scholastic sights and elastic thinking, Alex LoRe delivers another awe-inspiring offering. With Karol, he continues to carve out a unique space in the pantheon of present-day saxophonists and composers.

Track Listing: Skyward; Orachle (For Igor Stravinsky); Vanishing Act (For Maddalena Casulana); Miniature 1; Light (For J.S. Bach); Casey Jones (For Charles Ives); Karol (For Karol Szymanowski); Color Wheel (For Alexander Scriabin); Miniature 2; Eastman (For Julius Eastman); Castaway (For Henry Cowell); Miniature 3.

Personnel: Alex LoRe: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Glenn Zaleski: piano; Desmond White: bass; Allan Mednard: drums; George Garzone: tenor saxophone (3, 10).

Title: Karol | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Challenge Records

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