Most of the music I have gravitated to for the past fifty years has been built on a series of structures and conventions — the thirty-two bar chorus, 4/4, certain harmonic progressions, the known melodies or their reinventions, ensemble choruses leading to solos and the reverse. I cherish these things. I can still happily settle in for a medium-tempo Bb blues, a consideration of BODY AND SOUL or perhaps LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER.
The music that tenor saxophonist Lena Bloch and her friends create seems, on first hearing, to be residing in another borough. It has a forward motion, but sometimes seems suspended in glowing collective introspection. It asks questions but does not worry about answering them. It dreamily proceeds forward through variations on the melody, the harmonies, the rhythm. One cannot predict its course — at times it feels as if the musicians are making small inquiring motions towards an end that they have not yet sighted, as if they were gently and piously excavating a sacred landscape, delicate spoonfuls at a time — but the result is both emotionally involved and emotionally satisfying. At times, it feels like the music of IF, which promises to arrive at WHEN.
Because I first encountered Lena and a series of very esteemed friends in more traditional contexts, inquiring deeper into familiar chord changes in Tristano-inspired fashion, I trust her to get me to places I would not have ordinarily visited, and her explorations never disappoint.
Here are five performances from an evening at Spectrum (a lovely upstairs music studio on Ludlow Street in downtown Manhattan) which I recorded on October 2, 2014. Lena’s colleagues are pianist Russ Lossing, string bassist Cameron Brown, drummer Billy Mintz — brave explorers and serious instant composers all.
Lena composed the first four selections; the closing one is by Russ.
TWO OCEANS OF MADNESS:
SONG ALONG THE WAY:
This music is worth more than a casual listening. Dreamlike, beautifully strange moments open themselves to the listener.
May your happiness increase!