I first heard baritone saxophonist Michael Lutzeier with Al Porcino's N'rnberg-based big band (Live!, Organic Music 9717) and was impressed enough to track down a copy of this quartet date on which he's the leader, recorded three years ago for Alfred Mangold's generally excellent Jazz4Ever label. Young Lutzeier (he recently turned 35 but looks in photographs to be at least ten years younger) is as impressive as I'd remembered, able to blow hot, cool or any temperature in between at the drop of a downbeat. His sound and phrasing are hard to describe without drawing imprecise but necessary comparisonsto the late great Swede Lars Gullin (albeit with a sharper edge), Bud Shank (whose baritone is almost as engaging as his alto) or rising newcomers Claire Daly and Cecilia Wennerstrom. Whoever his role models may have been, Lutzeier's a formidable player, no doubt about that; one need only listen to Jerome Kern's "Nobody Else But Me," Oscar Pettiford's "Tricotism," Ellington's "Warm Valley" or Lutzeier's Latin-inspired compositions, "Music 4 Food" and "Reminiscing," to confirm that assessment. On the downside are the leader's arrangements of the standards "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and "Alone Together," each of whichand we may be revealing a generation gap hereare too "contemporary" (read strident) for these ears. Guitarist Steve McKenna is irksome on both tracks, although he's splendid elsewhere, and drummer Falk Willis is too busy and intrusive, whereas on other numbers he's calmly alert and responsive. Bassist Henning Sieverts, meanwhile, keeps perfect time throughout (and contributed an admirable tune, "I Warn You"). Even after factoring in the relatively low marks for "Daddy" and "Alone Together," this is a superb album by an enormously talented young Jazz artist from overseas who deserves to be heard and appreciated.
Contact:Alfred Mangold, Jazz4Ever Records, Schwander Str. 17, 90469 N'rnberg, Germany. Web site, www.jazzpages.com/jazz4ever; email WIGEL@xtras.de
Track Listing: My Heart Belongs to Daddy; Nobody Else But Me; Little Waltz; Music 4 Food; Alone Together; I Warn You; Reminiscing; Tricotism; Warm Valley (56:00).
Personnel: Michael Lutzeier, baritone sax; Steve McKenna, guitar; Henning Sieverts, bass; Falk Willis, drums.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.