Tag Archives: Russ Lossing

MUSIC IN THE MAKING: “SONGS OF YEARNING AND HOPE” (LENA BLOCH, CAMERON BROWN, RUSS LOSSING, BILLY MINTZ)

I’ve known and admired the saxophonist-composer Lena Bloch for almost a decade now, and respect her musical integrity.

I’ve been very selective about using JAZZ LIVES as a platform to advertise Kickstarter projects, but Lena’s new CD — as of yet unrecorded — with her FEATHERY quartet, Cameron Brown, Billy Mintz, and Russ Lossing, is eminently worthy of your consideration.

FEATHERY, from left, Cameron Brown, Lena Bloch, Russ Lossing, and Billy Mintz

FEATHERY is planning a new CD, which will be called ROSE OF LIFTA.  Here’s what Lena has to say about the project:

The idea of this project came to my mind when I was reading the poem by Iman Annab “Climbing Rose Of Lifta,” about the pain of separation from one’s homeland, intense yearning and strong hope of return. Deeply moved by this poem, I wrote a piece “Rose Of Lifta” and later on several other compositions, dedicated to those who had to leave their homes and loved ones, becoming refugees and expatriates. My ensemble colleagues understood me emotionally and musically, and we added several more pieces written by Russ Lossing. It will be an album of a string of compositions, different in mood and color, but unified by a continuous narrative of longing for home. Our approach, the ways to interpret the compositions developed organically during our performances, and after one year of working on the material, we now ready to record it and simply can’t wait! Our recording will again be done in one room, without headphones or booths, The sound engineer that has been working with us is Paul Wickliffe (Skyline Productions), whose work Dan Morgenstern describes as the following: “There is a fifth member of this group, Paul Wickliffe, who recorded, mixed and mastered the music–and the term “mastered” has seldom been more appropriate. The special sound of this group has been perfectly captured, each voice crystal clear, yet reflecting the music’s collective essence.” We are very thrilled to be working with Paul again, he is a wizard who can create the most intimate listening experience.

As JAZZ LIVES readers know, producing a CD is costly.  There are almost no record companies in existence that can bankroll musicians, so most if not all musicians are forced to do it themselves.  So this project has spawned a Kickstarter page — FEATHERY needs to raise $8000 in the next three weeks, more or less, to create this CD.  I’ve contributed, by the way.  And I hope you will look into this worthy endeavor.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN LOVE LASTS: YAALA BALLIN and ARI ROLAND (2015)

Songwriters have always done well with the sudden romantic infatuation, the blinding green flash “across a crowded room.”  “And all at once I owned the earth and sky.”  But love that lasts when such mind-altering experiences have grown familiar is much more rarely a subject.  Oh, there’s WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE, but MAGGIE is no longer around to appreciate the encomium; there’s THE FOLKS WHO LIVE ON THE HILL, but that couple is also apparently fairly sedentary.

THEN I'LL BE TIRED OF YOU

The song that I think of with great affection is the 1934 THEN I’LL BE TIRED OF YOU, music by Arthur Schwartz, lyrics by Yip Harburg.  I heard it first in a rather irreverent version by Fats Waller (when the song was new) and later by Vic Dickenson and Joe Thomas — instrumental but deeply fervent.  The simple melody is memorable (Joe delighted in those repeated notes) yet for me what makes it complete is Harburg’s witty conceit: rather than attempt to revitalize “I will always love you,” he turns it on its head in the conditional: “I’ll weary of you when these improbable events happen, but not a second before.” High fidelity, and long-playing, too.

YAALA

Here’s a deliciously intimate version by the fine young singer Yaala Ballin and string bassist Ari Roland, recorded in December 2015 at The Drawing Room (video by the very gifted Neal Miner):

Even better than this video is the news that Yaala and Ari will be singing and playing on Sunday, June 19, at the pastoral hour of 3:30, at The Drawing Room (56 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn — right near a subway!)  Here are the details of that event.  And later on that same June 19, Lena Bloch, Russ Lossing, Cameron Brown, and Billy Mintz (the FEATHERY quartet) will be creating and improvising . . . from 7 PM on.

May your happiness increase!

DREAMY EXCURSIONS: LENA BLOCH, RUSS LOSSING, CAMERON BROWN, BILLY MINTZ at SPECTRUM (October 2, 2014)

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.

YUSEF:

MUNIR:

HIGH POINT:

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!