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Lena Bloch and Feathery
(Fresh Sound New Talent)
A HAUNTING lyrical beauty pours from the tenor saxophone of Lena Bloch and on her latest album she is joined by a trio of deeply empathetic veterans — double bassist Cameron Brown, drummer Billy Mintz and pianist Russ Lossing — to create a unified sound of powerful musical artistry. Together, they make up the aptly named quartet Feathery.
Such is the kinship of jazz that a Russian-Jewish saxophonist should blow a tribute to one of her teachers, black Muslim genius Yusuf Lateef.
Lateef Suite is part-threnody, part-celebration of the pioneering internationalist, with Bloch’s soft tones and Lossing’s more strident notes prefacing the entry of Cameron’s deep and sonorous bassline.
His solo bass is an earth-bound tribute in itself and Lossing’s keys invoke the drums of all continents.
There’s a poise and serenity in Bloch’s opening notes on title track Heart Knows, with Brown digging deep again and Lossing’s fingers creating a paean to love, alongside Mintz’s whispering brushes.
“Three treasures” are what Bloch calls her bandmates and this is her homage to them, punctuated by Mintz’s incessant strikes as her melody rises and soars.
French Twist, a Lossing original, is based on Bach’s French Suite in D Minor and it shows the breadth of musical history that these four musicians encompass. The piano, alone and inventive, begins before a breathy and tender Bloch enters, while Brown’s mollifying bass takes on a deep and gentle timbre that expresses a lifetime’s quest for beauty in the halls of jazz. The centuries and their genres and categories suddenly count for nothing.
Esmeh is the Farsi for “name” and its theme has a Persian lilt. It’s a direct reminder of Duke Ellington’s Isfahan from his Far East Suite but it’s more upbeat, with some brilliant Lossing and Bloch’s soft swing as akin to sax legend Lee Konitz as she reaches on the album.
Counter Clockwise, another Lossing composition, has the ruminative notes of Bloch’s horn sounding like tears falling, while submerged evocations of invasion and war emerge through Bloch’s Munir, a tribute to Iraqi oud virtuoso Munir Bashir. The quartet play insightfully throughout the track, particularly the luminous Lossing.
The album ends with Newfoundsong, another Lossing original, which is his soundscape of the Canadian province. Brown’s subliminal bass at its very human heart and Bloch’s notes are almost visual in their portraiture.
It completes a constantly surprising and engrossing album of superb musicianship.
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