Jonathan Lorentz has really got it: a great style, an explorative mind, and a concept for this album that goes beyond the usual fare you hear from jazz sax trios. Although he is very obviously influenced by Coltrane (and, to a lesser extent, by Sonny Rollins), he does not imitate either except to use his rich yet vibratoless tenor saxophone to create musical patterns that are both lyrical and explorative. He’s not really an improviser on the outer fringe, as Trane was (especially in his late years), opting for simplicity of expression rather than complication, but he definitely has his own thing going—simultaneously lyrical and surreal.
Indeed, the surrealistic aspect of the CD is immediately apparent from the opening track, where cymbal washes suggest howling winds in the wilderness while a wordless vocal by Suzanne Kantorski, singing along with Lorentz, remind one strongly of the pioneer work that Ursula Dudziak did back in the late 1970s, except that Kantorski is singing straight into the mike and not using an octave-box to alter the pitch of her voice. This is followed by Sounds Like, which has some of the propulsion and mosaic-like quality one associates with Ornette Coleman. The melody is a four-bar head with three bars in 5/4 and one in 6/4. Rhythmic quirkiness also comes to the fore in Hrmmm… with its somewhat convoluted melody, while drummer David Calarco’s one compositional contribution to the album, Trane Fare, plays homage to one of Lorentz’s musical models. Drive Down is best described by annotator Michael J. West as “a slinky tune that’s all but made for a black-and-white 1950s film noir soundtrack,” again using Kantorski’s voice but in an almost sinister way—shades of Loulie Jean Norman! (And if you don’t know who Loulie Jean was, you are extremely unhip; just ask Charlie Parker, Paul Desmond, The Tokens, Spike Jones, and Frank Sinatra, for whom, among many others, she contributed some exquisite and often striking background vocals.)
John Menegon’s wife, Teri Roiger, lends her quite different, laser-pointed voice to The Sign, in the first half of which she is slightly distorted by a filtered microphone. The initial theme of Borderlands is improvised on by members of the trio in three further variations scattered through the album: Calarco in Part 2, Menegon in Part 3, and then, of course, Lorentz in Part 4. The latter, being played a capella , has a rather lost and forlorn sound, which for me rather sums up the entire album. Even the concluding Addiction, which takes a more seductive strut (here, Roiger’s voice reminds me, mostly in phrasing but also partly in timbre, of Katharine Whalen, who sang with the Squirrel Nut Zippers), seems to fit in to the overall concept of the album.
This one will stay with you for a long, long, time. Phrases from it will play in your mind like a tape loop from space.
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