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Jessica Lurie: Long Haul

Paul Rauch By

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Jessica Lurie's new aptly titled release Long Haul (Chant, 2017) is a statement not of an arduous journey of endurance, but of her devotion to craft over three decades that has seen her carve out a musical identity of great diversity and depth. Her career personifies her experience as a strong woman instrumentalist, composer and vocalist in a male dominated genre, steeped in joyous interpretive revelation. While citing influences ranging from Klezmer, to Cuban, to jazz, Lurie's music is her personal musical narrative expressed compositionally, and embellished with her inventive approach to improvisation.

It would be very easy to brand this record, and those Lurie has recorded previously, to be a fusion music, or a musical crossroads identifying cultural variance. But if one defines jazz as expressing the human condition, as the true original American art form, then the ethnic and cultural diversity of its artists and patrons must be expressed without inhibition. In this sense, Lurie is a jazz artist utilizing the cultural springboard that is her family roots, and traditions. Lurie often refers to her music as "weird folk songs," taking on the narrative that is her father's Jewish heritage, and her lifelong fascination with various forms, including classical music, and jazz.

The title track in many ways encapsulates Lurie's musical journey to date, her creative "long haul" that has drawn from an eclectic prism of tonal and rhythmic colors. My thoughts drifted towards Ravel at first listen, with the piece both opening and closing adrift in ostinato that defies the passing of time. The collective improvisation, highlighted by spirited interplay between Lurie's alto and pianist Brian Marsella, can be imagined as Buddhist chants rising from the collective om. These ostinato drifts surround a melody that provides a narrative seemingly without end, beautifully articulated by Lurie and Marsella.

There is a sonic resonance throughout this recording provided by drummer Allison Miller, bassist Todd Sickafoose, and guitarist Mike Gamble. The sound is an eerie Bill Frisell sort of feel reminiscent of Dave Douglas' masterpiece, Strange Liberation (Bluebird, 2004). This feel truly rises to the surface on the New Orleans style rant, "Calder's Circus." The tune glides from full March mode, to hard core swing, with Lurie, and trombonist Naomi Moon Siegel soloing in jubilant tones.

"Rare Flares" is a nod to Lurie's first instrument, the flute, and her father's Jewish heritage. There are melodic traits that are steeped in Klezmer, in classical music, and indeed in Lurie's eclectic approach to folk harmonies. Featuring Lurie on flute, there is an eastern European texture of which Lurie and Marsella completely deconstruct, and rebuild, both through improvisation and composition.

"A Tiger For William Kentridge," features a layered rhythmic demolecularization of variant time, featuring sonic washes of sound from guitarist Gamble. Lurie plays a cutting solo that jumps and leaps through the harmonic pockets provided by her mates. The melody in and out is a rollicking, downhill stumble and glide that ultimately lands in a collective heap.

The music on Long Haul feels as if it is pulling in opposite directions, creating a perfect arc. In varying instances, it's akin to minimalism, or the triumph of ostinato. In others, it moves between globe trotting musical landscapes, while speaking to the personal aesthetic from where Lurie's narrative arises. Most importantly, it exudes the strength, courage, and relentlessly eclectic edge we have come to expect from a Lurie project.

Personnel: Jessica Lurie: alto, tenor, soprano, and baritone saxophones, flute, alto flute; Todd Sickafoose: acoustic bass; Brian Marsella: piano, Rhodes, pump organ, prepared piano; Mike Gamble: guitar; Allison Miller: drums, percussion; Naomi Moon Siegel: trombone

Title: Long Haul | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Chant Records

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