273

Lawnmover: West

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Drummer Luther Gray explains in the brief liner notes to West, the debut of his ensemble Lawnmower, that the album is an attempt to reconcile the various genres he has worked in throughout his musical development. From his early days spent in punk bands like Tsunami, to his jazz-oriented work as a sideman with fellow Bostonians Jim Hobbs, Joe Morris and Steve Lantner, Gray has built a diverse discography founded on one common denominator—quality.

This session encapsulates Gray's wide-reaching interests with the assistance of three empathetic peers. Criminally under-sung, saxophonist Jim Hobbs is one of the most creative and visceral jazz stylists working on alto today, while electric guitarists Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton invoke the sonic diversity of the indie rock scene. Farina's experiences in post-punk bands Karate, Gloryteller and Secret Stars meshes well with Littleton's more folk oriented approach, previously heard in bands like Ida and The Hated.

This date is a continuation of sorts to the work heard on New Salt (Xeng, 2005), which featured the same line-up sans Hobbs. Gray's nuanced drive and elastic timing provide the quartet with a surfeit of textural and tonal stimuli. Hobbs' expressive alto soars above the kaleidoscopic underpinning provided by Farina and Littleton, as the guitarists trade ideas and motifs with a languid, majestic intensity. The modal drones of Farina and Littleton's guitars are a prevailing force throughout the session, veering from the spare pointillism of "Dan" to the harsh electronic gales that dominate the last half of "Two." The over-arching concept fuses introspective, feedback laden guitar rock with the raw, freewheeling impetuousness of free jazz.

Jazz is widely perceived as an urban art form, and often, rightly so. But the spacious, unhurried dynamics Gray and company offer on West evokes the bucolic vistas of open sky territory more than the bustling fervor of a metropolis. The dramatically ascending "One" and the ethereal ballads "Prayers of Death" and "I Love" are steeped in Americana, as Farina and Littleton's reverb drenched guitars ply countrified twang for Hobbs and Gray to embellish, deconstruct and collectively reinvent. "Glass" favors a more exotic patina, as the guitarists' ringing arpeggios weave a dreamy mosaic of Eastern tonalities around Hobbs' vocalized alto, while the appropriately titled "Giant Squid" conveys menace with a spasmodic thicket of coiled dissonances.

A pitch-perfect merger of jazz and rock, the conversational interplay between the members of the quartet espouses the finer aspects of improvisation, delivered in the instrumental tone colors of contemporary rock music. There have been many similar efforts over the years, but few quite as successful as West.

Track Listing: One; Glass; Prayers of Death; Giant Squid; Dan; I Love; Two.

Personnel: Luther Gray: drums; Jim Hobbs: alto saxophone; Geoff Farina: guitar; Dan Littleton: guitar.

Title: West | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Skyjack" CD/LP/Track Review Skyjack
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 24, 2016
Read "Daylight Ghosts" CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: July 10, 2017
Read "The Picasso Zone" CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 24, 2017
Read "On The Radio: BBC Sessions 1971" CD/LP/Track Review On The Radio: BBC Sessions 1971
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 6, 2017
Read "Beginnings" CD/LP/Track Review Beginnings
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 12, 2017
Read "Translator's Note" CD/LP/Track Review Translator's Note
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 3, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.