I have to confess something. Sometimes I do not listen to music with appropriate attention, I listen to it when I cook, when I clean my flat or when I read my weekly paper. Yet, sometimes the music grabs me and I can’t help concentrating on it (which happens very often with Peter Brötzmann, Mats Gustafsson, Agustí Fernandez, Waclaw Zimpel or David S. Ware, for example), but sometimes I can focus on the other things. This listening habit does not do Steven Lugerner’s “For We Have Heard” justice, an album that demands close and attentive listening because of its very delicate and tender compositions.
The reason for this delicacy is the fact Lugerner uses texts from the Book of Joshua in the Torah, and he wrote the music by using gematria, a traditional rabbinical system to assign numbers to verses from the Torah and taking them as a basis for each composition. He said that he “devised a couple of ways of turning those numbers into music.” What sounds really theoretical and sober is actually rather fascinating.
“For We Have Heard” is the sophomore album to “Narrative/These are the Words” and multi-instrumentalist Lugerner (clarinets, saxophones, flute, English horn, oboe) has rounded up his combatants Darren Johnston (trumpet), Myra Melford (piano) and Matt Wilson (drums) again. Located at the interface of jazz and Judaism, the album continues what was started on the first album, the musicians often play intricate unison parts while the drums are released from setting a pulse and rather contribute to the melodic lines of the pieces, which are miniatures in which the band is often split up in solos, duos and trios.
Exceptions to the rule are two larger compositions: the title track, in which the whole band is at work before the clarinet opens a tender dialogue with piano and drums, and “All Those Kings”, which is based on the classic gospel “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”. The piece starts with a drum/alto duo before there is the only real free jazz moment of the album, when the whole band seems to forget the notated parts and accelerates before they pick up the gospel theme at the end again.
For NoBusiness this is a rather unusual album but it proves their openness for new music again.
The vinyl is distributed by NoBusiness and limited to 500 copies, Primary Records distributes a CD version as well.
Buy from instantjazz.com.
Listen to the album on bandcamp: http://stevenlugerner.bandcamp.com/album/for-we-have-heard-2