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Ways - excerpt 1
Ways - excerpt 2
Ways - excerpt 3
Ways - excerpt 4
File under: free improvisation

Russ Lossing


Label: ezz-thetics

Format: CD

Genre: Jazz

In stock

An essential part of the New York jazz scene since the mid-80s, pianist Russ Lossing's compositions employ concept and space in unique and personal ways, as heard in these 8 original works performed with his trio of long-time collaborators, double bassist Masa Kamaguchi and drummer Billy Mintz, for an album of highly evolved and lyrically sophisticated music.

**In process of stocking** "Critics get a bad name for writing nonsense, and sometimes artists do, too. In fairness, we're all just trying to find ways of saying the unsayable, communicating in one medium sometimes quite profound ideas about what is happening in another. So when I say that with Russ Lossing's music I'm less interested in the notes than in the spaces between the notes, this isn't just pseudo-Zen nonsense and isn't a sneaky way of revealing that I know he once met John Cage and was much influenced by his ideas. In point of fact, there isn't another player around who makes me think more deeply about the distance between one tone and another, their spectral or textural relationships, and their interaction, sometimes over quite long durations.

These interests help explain why Lossing was so drawn to the music of [percussionist] Paul Motian, who had a unique and uniquely musical sense of distributed sound. We think of "intervals" as a rather abstract aspect of music, mathematical ratios that maybe appeal more to the mathematician than to the poet in us, but intervals are actually all we're hearing and Lossing's attachment to them is key to his work. He and Motian worked together on a couple of very fine albums, including the peerless hatOLOGY set As It Grows - more than a decade and a half old now: where does the time go? - and Lossing paid special tribute to the older man, who died in 2011, with a lovely set of piano interpretations that like the present trio set explored deeply into the concept and the practice of musical interval.

Recently, he has found other partners who embody the same qualities. Drummer Billy Mintz, who has done remarkable work with Vinny Golia and others, is a secret treasure, one of those musicians who like the leader here has power at his disposal but doesn't succumb to any macho urge to use it all the time. Bassist Masa Kamaguchi once made my jaw fall open with a tiny little spontaneous figure on a Matt Renzi album (he's the kind of bass player you actually do remember and listen for), and he does it again several times here on this extended programme of improvised pieces.

Lossing's debt to Motian is obvious and well-attested, but I wonder if he also takes inspiration from one of his native city's most famous sons. I once had the privilege of meeting Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the great master of multiple horn playing. I was 21 and dumb, but trying to play the saxophone (just the one), so I asked him what he thought improvisation was. Snaking his good hand from side to side, Kirk said it was simple, it was about "finding the way", which was a pretty extraordinary and moving thing to hear from a blind man. Kirk is nowadays a somewhat underrated figure, affectionately dismissed as something of a novelty act, but his playing often deals in very complex harmonics and unexpected juxtapositions of pitch and texture, qualities we would admire if Webern were doing it, but which we sometimes overlook because it comes out of Columbus, Ohio.

Whether from something in that city's water orjust a common philosophy of quest, Lossing and his colleagues seem to be exploring similar territory. These ways are like little journeys in sound, passages between one space and another. They're negotiated not in a choreographed way but in the natural, human way that we explore our surroundings or make purposive trips from one part of town to another. Elias Canetti wrote about this in Crowds and Power, a book that all improvisers would do well to study. The difference between an individual and a crowd is a matter for aesthetics as much as for politics. The relationship between individuals' trajectories, likewise. So when Lossing improvises, one knows that he does so within a set of language rules that have held fair for decades in our music. Canetti points out that the "entrances to [any given] space are limited in number" and that recognising the boundaries "prevents disorderly increase" and "postpones the dissolution" of the ensemble. You'll hear exactly this many times on Ways.

The album ends, not as it might with "The Way", which implies some kind of philosophical destination, but simply with "Way". I like the modest elegance of this, not just as a title but in execution as well. Here is a record that draws deeply on history but doesn't insist on inhabiting any of its contrived passages or halls of mirrors. It gives us something more precious: three men, finding a way ..."- Brian Morton

File under: free improvisation
Cat. number: ezz-thetics 1006
Year: 2019

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