Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Mark Lomax Trio Tackles a Daunting Theme

The Mark Lomax Trio isn’t your typical jazz trio. On their new album The State of Black America, drummer Lomax, bassist Dean Hulett and tenor saxophonist Edwin Bayard approach Lomax’s compositions with equal parts vigor and rigor. Lomax has stated that he wrote this as an exploration on themes of self-improvement and empowerment: seen as a demonstration of awareness and self-discipline, and the myriad possibilities that open up within those parameters, it’s a stunning success. One possible interpretation is that Lomax, trained in European musical theory, decided to apply the principles of minimalism to a style, jazz, which often resists the severity that school of thought entails.

The other possibility, of course, is that he simply told his guys not to overdo it. Whatever the case, this album is a clinic in making every note count: Lomax is the rare drummer who leaves you wanting more, leading his bandmates through a strikingly terse, brilliantly counterintutive and ultimately joyous series of explorations. Hulett takes the role traditionally assigned to the drums, maintaining the rhythmic center with a strikingly spare, decisive melodicism: he doesn’t just walk scales. Lomax is a colorist here: his palette uses the entire spectrum and the entirety of his kit (especially his snare sound, a richly resounding snap that other drummers will be scratching their heads trying to emulate once they hear it). Likewise, Bayard thoughtfully and decisively builds permutations on simple, memorable blues-based motifs: stripped to its core, this is a great blues album.

The opening cut, Stuck in a Rut seems to be very ironically titled, a jaunty blues theme that contrasts Lomax’s matter-of-factly rapidfire underpinnings with a long, slinkily expansive solo by Hulett. The quintessential track here is the second one, The Unknown Self, a showcase for quietly bristling intensity on Lomax’s part (he opens and closes it with a hushed, rapt intensity), Hulett echoing Bayard and taking the song deep into the blues with another long, minimalist solo. The practically twelve-minute third track, The Power of Knowing moves stately, even regally, bass and sax carrying on a Socratic dialogue once everyone converges, piece by piece, from the shadows. Bayard absolutely owns the fourth track, masterfully expanding on a series of smartly positioned building blocks, Lomax taking his time judiciously and finally reaching the level of a rumble as Bayard circles overhead, triumphantly. They close with a long, expressive blues featuring yet another warmly intelligent, ruminatively deliberate bass solo. This is headphone jazz: those who are in it for the long haul will be richly rewarded. It’s out now on Inarhyme Records.

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August 11, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment