Review in December, 2015 issue:
New York City Jazz Record
Russ Lossing (Aqua Piazza)
by Fred Bouchard
When I read that this solo piano album was performed as a consecutive series of short improvisations, I tried to experience it as such—put the album on, stretched out and listened intently, unarmed with pen and pad. Impressions flew in, but I suppressed a habitual desire to jot and scribble, instead listening and reflecting, trying to identify Lossing’s favored textures, effects and results. Next time through, I ventured a few comments and aural analogies: “Paul Bley. Not for driving! Horace Tapscott. Angry gnomes. Elliott Carter. Taut abstractions. Dark humors.” On the third pass, I tried track-by-track: “Chattering intensity; single-note
runs with overlapping hands; slow-creeping chromaticism; spidery, atonal motifs; pointillist moments; occasional bluesy thirds. Clouds of Bill
Evans (or Federico Mompou) post-Impressionism.” That was all from the opening “Eclipse”! “Moving Shadow”: slow single notes and triads yield (not build) to graceful arabesques; an oblique reference to Debussy’s “Golliwog’s Cakewalk”. “Distant Earth”: febrile dipsy-doodles meet raggy galumphing—with momentum! “Upper and Lower Unite”: leaves slowly, silently turn yellow. “If Ever”: low, damped gallopings alternate with reverberating plucked strings. Macabre!
There’s lots going on during Lossing’s hour alone with his piano and his thoughts (aptly dubbed ‘mercurial’ by guitarist Ben Monder) have more galaxy-wandering freedom than in his duos with bassist John Hébert, but lightning turnarounds, too. By the time he winds down this intense, introverted, demanding excursion Lossing goes hushed, cosmic: “Not So”—a pulsating nebula—is followed by “Water Over Fire”’starburst and asteroid shower. Fade to black
Album Liner notes
I have known Russ Lossing for close to 25 years now, and it has been inspiring to watch the trajectory of his growth as an artist. We played together for some years in the great saxophonist/composer John O'Gallagher's band. John writes some of the most challenging music to improvise on that I have encountered, and I was always amazed at how Russ would master these intricacies almost immediately, and begin to play on John's forms with as much freedom and conviction as if he had written them himself.
Russ' improvisational prowess and singular voice come to full fruition on this release. It is an hour long snapshot, but one which effectively represents a distillation of his life's work up to this point. One hears references to a number of sources: foremost perhaps is a deep immersion in the language of 20th/21st century classical music, but a lifetime of playing jazz, the music of Paul Motian, and the blues are all at times invoked as well. However, these sources are thoroughly assimilated into a palette that is utterly personal.
Remarkably, this entire recording was performed in real time - an unedited hour's worth of improvisation divided into 11 discrete tracks. Yet each track stands as a world unto itself, internally coherent and distinct. The amount of structural integrity is striking given its extemporaneous nature, and this is why repeated listening will yield the reward of continual discovery. The music on this record is by turn lyrical, angular, lyrically angular, mercurial, glacial, dense and spacious, sometimes all in the course of a single track. And while this is very much an acoustic piano album, Russ sounds at times like an orchestra, a horn section, and even an electronic ensemble. The attentive listener will be thoroughly engaged from start to finish; one is compelled to follow each train of thought as it proceeds in the spirit of inevitable surprise. Structures are built, dissembled, and rebuilt with authority and playfulness. Ideas are pursued, explored, discarded when appropriate; everything seems to be in spontaneous balance and there does not seem to be a wasted or superfluous note or gesture. But above all one gets a sense of absolute commitment and surrender to each moment.
It is fascinating to share this trip through the synapses of a fearless, nimble, and unfettered mind.
- Ben Monder
New York City, April 2015
released November 11, 2015
all compositions by Russ Lossing
Woodworth Edition Music BMI
Aqua Piazza Records
Russ Lossing has been part of the New York jazz scene since 1986. Lossing played with drummer Paul Motian over a period of
12 years and was a member of the Paul Motian Quintet which played week long gigs at the Village Vanguard in New York. He has 18 CDs as leader and is featured on over 50 other CDs as sideman and collaborator with world acclaimed jazz musicians.