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The full name of this ensemble is Oscar Noriega’s Play Party, and some of the music on Luciano’s Dream is indeed playful, with an edgy, avant-garde sensibility. But the album’s title track is certainly no laughing matter, as it is dedicated to a person who would have become Noriega’s brother-in-law had he not committed suicide at the age of 28. Together with trumpeter Cuong Vu, guitarist Brad Shepik, and drummer Tom Rainey, Noriega (on alto sax and bass clarinet) formulates a complex emotional response to the tragedy through music. The track "Luciano’s Dream" begins with a haunting bass clarinet introduction and develops into a powerful, unsettling song of mourning. In a similarly moving vein, Noriega ends the album with a tranquil, unaccompanied bass clarinet piece titled "Canción Para Cecilia."
There’s no bassist in this Play Party, although Shepik fulfills a bass-like role on several tracks, at times using an octave pedal to access lower registers. The guitarist, well-versed in non-Western music, brings a particular acumen to the Balkan-inspired "7 of 9." Tom Rainey, who plays drums in Shepik’s own trio, also approaches Noriega’s music with an intuitive expertise. Cuong Vu, a bold new presence on the creative music scene, contributes his identifiable trumpet sound, at times using his breath to achieve a radical white-noise effect.
Track Listing: 1. Funky Number 2. 7 of 9 3. The Z 4. Back to Back 5. Skimcoat 6. Luciano
Personnel: Oscar Noriega, bass clarinet, alto saxophone; Cuong Vu, trumpet; Brad Shepik, guitar; Tom Rainey, drums