Alternate Side Parking Music Reviews
Alternate Side Parking Music
Alternate Side Parking Music marks the debut of pianist/composer/improviser Russ Lossing’s new quartet, King Vulture with reedist Adam Kolker, bassist Matt Pavolta, and drummer Dayeon Seok. Even more importantly, this is a brilliant album that will have you smiling and probably even laughing as Lossing’s compositions often reveal the comical aspects of dealing with parking in New York City. Lossing knows the city as well as any, having resided there for 35 years, and establishing himself as a leading voice in creative jazz. He has 23 records on various American and European labels and issues this project as his sixth on his own imprint, Aqua Piazza. The players, other than new arrival, the Korean-born female Seok, are longtime collaborators.
Lossing’s compositions evoke visual and aural imagery of New York City’s streets. Even if you didn’t know the concept of the album, that imagery would be vividly apparent. He composed the music sitting in his car dealing with the city’s “alternate side parking” regulations in Manhattan as explained in this excerpt from the liners – “…Since it is difficult to find a parking spot normally, often times, you have to sit in your car, double parked, and wait for the street cleaning machine to pass by on the other side of the street. As it passes, you can move your car over to the cleaned side of the street to park…the scene can be comical: chaotic and intense with a lot of honking and jockeying for position.”
His quartet spent four years investigating this material in live performances before entering the studio to record. The music is complex, but Lossing found ways to notate the music that maximizes freedom and improvisation. In its final state no composition extends beyond a single sheet of paper, leaving it open to boundless interpretations. He calls this the “Transparent Composition Method,” ensuring that each performance of the piece will be different each time out, as certain parts are shared, opted out, or repeated. Time signatures can change and there is not a strict metrical adherence to the melody. Instrumentally the textures vary widely. Lossing plays piano, Rhodes, and Wurlitzer, sometimes simultaneously or in different combinations within the same piece. Kolker plays tenor and soprano saxophones, also using the bass clarinet at key junctures. Pavolka has a dynamic and often unconventional presence on bass, and, as you may have learned from previous reviews, Korean drumming is special and highly inventive.
In the opener “Honk” the cacophony is represented by the piano, bass, saxophone, and drums all seemingly playing separately to mimic the frenetic street activity. The bass lines don’t relate to the melody – an example of “Transparent Composition.” Another example of such is “Cloned” which appears twice on the album. The concept is about the parking enforcement officers “who put in mind clones; expressionless robots all dressed in brown.” In the first version Lossing plays the opening theme alone, feeding his Fender Rhodes through a wah-wah pedal before his rhythm mates join him, after which he retreats to the acoustic piano while also playing the Rhodes. While Pavolka is prominent in the first piece, he emerges even more so in the forefront in the second with various Instruments joining unpredictably. Lossing confesses to reanimating “one little melodic ‘clone’ from a Schoenberg piano piece” here. “Next 3 Kin” is as freely improvised as any piece, further exemplifying the “Transparent Composition: technique, where bass lines change tempo and melody lines move independently via exemplary bass clarinet playing and spirited rhythm section interplay.
“Move It Over” would make a great soundtrack for a video game, referring rather obviously to the aforementioned quote when drivers rush to the other side of the street after the street cleaning machine has passed. The tricky rhythm of “Parallel Park” replicated the finesse one needs in such a maneuver while “Double Park” and its pensive bass clarinet refers to all that sitting time waiting for the street cleaner to pass, the time Lossing used to compose this material. The latter half becomes wildly energetic as the composer is likely observing the surrounding chaos before it dissolves again into a more contemplative mood. Meanwhile, drummer Seok maintains her whirlwind activity. “Meter Maid” has bassist Pavolta employing a ’70-like funk groove in a complex rhythmic dance played in unison. Understanding what’s involved will induce some kind of reaction over these four pieces. Close your eyes. It becomes hilarious.
“Rainy Ramadan” refers to a day when the alternate side parking regulations were suspended, thus its peaceful and somewhat gloomy nature. The final piece, the quirky “Turn” is the first song Lossing composed, many intricate rhythms, adding additional beats to each measure, connoting the Manhattan activity.
Lossing has delivered one of the most creative, compelling, and comically realistic albums of the year. This ‘must hear’ should be destined for several year end best lists.
Dusted Magazine - August 2023
Russ Lossing & King Vulture — Alternate Side Parking Music (Aqua Piazza)
For some, life in a burg with complex parking regulations means that one must spend time and energy each day either figuring out where the car will go, or sitting in it when there’s no opportune place to put it. Pianist Russ Lossing lived that life for years as he coped with the task of forever having to give up and locate spots under the alternate side parking regiment on Manhattan’s car-clogged streets. Under such circumstances, you have to wonder how one gets to be king vulture. By getting good at hovering over spots? By diligently defending what you find on the street? Anyway, back to Lossing, who derived two things from the experience. One, ultimately, was to move out of town; when I chatted with the guy after a Samuel Blaser concert in 2022, he talked about the sanity-conferring benefits of moving to a smaller town outside of New York City. The other is this music.
Lossing has been on the jazz scene for decades, both as an accompanist with Paul Motian, Kirk Knuffke, and Blaser (among many), and as a leader. In any setting, he can be relied upon to prioritize clarity over density, but that doesn’t mean that he’ll shy from complexity; he just doesn’t call attention to the fancy stuff. The sound of this quartet, with its effects-laden electric pianos sharing space with an acoustic instrument, Adam Kolker’s pithy reed phrases, and the assertive rhythm section of Matt Pavolka and Dayeon Seok, is distinct from many of his other projects. It takes some of the spaciness out of early 1970s electric jazz, and balances repetitive funk elements with a comprehensively developed interactive element. The quartet played this material, which requires from all players both an adherence to fixed elements and a willingness to make split-second decisions (thus the parking metaphor), for four years, and it shows in their cohesive execution of the King Vulture songbook’s lucid melodies, abstracted yet palpable grooves, and complicated joints. This music doesn’t blow out or blaze; it simmers, smolders, and ceaselessly reconfigures behind of a foreground of sturdy, fixed elements.
JazzTrail.net August 15, 2023
by Filipe Freitas
American pianist and composer Russ Lossing had a great idea while going through the process of alternate side parking (ASP) in his Manhattan neighborhood. This exasperating operation consists of removing your parked car from one side of the street to the other to allow street cleaning, and then realigning to park again. For this 10-track album, composed while seated in his car, Lossing assembled a flexible quartet featuring longtime collaborator Adam Kolker on saxophone and clarinet, and the new powerful rhythm section of Matt Pavolka and Dayeon Seok on bass and drums, respectively.
As usually occurs whenever Lossing puts his artistry to work, the music sidesteps the obvious in a way that leaves the listener searching and wanting more. The appropriately titled “Honk”, the album’s opener, has that pleasurable effect of taking us beyond the familiar as the theme blooms into staccato riffing glory. The piece is what Rossing calls ‘transparent composition’, which gives players freedom to choose what they want to do. This strange, engaging dance carries satirical humor and passes the idea of wanting to rush while being stuck. “Parallel Park” comes with more fluidity in the process and achieves a fantastic sense of intuition in its labyrinthine treatment of tempo.
The pianist has the ability to generate awesome rhythms by working with complex tempos and forms. Like the playful “Meter Made”, which includes a lucid funky passage with a ’70s feel; and the closer, “Turn”, which expands two beat cycles at every turn. Another example is “Double Park”, spiked with a snare-driven rudiment that inflates over time, a tense bass groove, and captivating solos from bass clarinet and electric piano, sometimes conjuring up Eastern fusion.
Some tunes alternate between sections while others tend to move along in a more linear way. “Cloned” relies on a punching low-pitched figure that composes the keyboarded wah-wah groove on the bottom. This figure, a melodic clone of a Schoenberg piano piece, is mimicked by everyone, before everything gets funkified in a contemporary fashion.
“Next 3 Km” denotes a more atmospheric disposition at the outset with Kolker on the bass clarinet, but becomes vividly skittish at some point, before returning to the churning theme. Also with arching improvisatory gestures, “Move it Over” feels more spasmodic and harmonically exposed.
Lossing’s new quartet dazzles in its ability to navigate new musical developments; they can be tight and focused one minute, exploratory and unconventional the next. To be savored at home, away from the alternate side parking nuisance.
review in Czech:
Russ Lossing as "the condor of the New York jazz avant-garde"
14/08/2023 Jan Hocek
Avant-garde American pianist, composer and improviser Russ Lossing has released an excellent first album with his quartet King Vulture on his own label Aqua Piazza Records, with music inspired by parking his car while cleaning the streets of New York.
Russ Lossing has lived in New York for over 35 years, ever since he came to study with John Cage. As a leader and sideman, he toured and recorded with, for example, Mark Helias, Samuel Blaser, Michael Formanek, Eric McPherson, Tim Berne, Ralph Alessi, Mat Maneri, Oliver Lake, Kirk Knuffek, and was a member of Paul Motian's quintet for 12 years. In the years 2015-2022, he was repeatedly named a rising star in DownBeat magazine's prestigious critics' poll.
In his quartet King Vulture, where he plays not only piano, but also Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, there are other notable personalities of the New York scene. Adam Kolker (tenor and soprano saxophone, bass clarinet) has been working here since 1989, and his portfolio includes Ray Barretto, Kenny Wheeler, Tim Hagans, Bobby Previte and John Abercrombie. Double bassist Matt Pavolka has been playing in the Big Apple for twenty years and has been and continues to be used by Lee Konitz, Paul Motian, Guillermo Klein, Chris Cheek, Tony Malaby and others. Drummer Dayeon Seok comes from South Korea, studied in the United States at Berklee in Boston and at New York University. For us, her involvement with saxophonist Kevin Sun and in the Sferos trio (+ Juanma Trujillo - guitar, Hery Paz - saxophones, bass clarinet, flute) and the Tidepool Fauna quartet (+ Kyoko Kitamura - vocals, Ingrid Laubrock - tenor sax, Ken Filiano - bass).
The Alternate Side Parking Music album was de facto created in Lossing's car on one of the Manhattan streets. In New York, the streets are cleaned several times a week, so a car parked on the street often has to be moved from one side of the street to the other. This is called alternative parking. Since it is difficult to find a normal parking space, it is often necessary to sit in the car and not delay for a moment after cleaning. This opens up the time from 8:30 to 10:00 for Lossing, which he decided to continuously use for composing. And because there is a lot of intense and chaotic going on around him at this time, with a lot of honking and nervousness, his music can be neither calm nor deliciously harmonious.
This resulted in ten manuscript sheets of elaborately notated material, one sheet for each of the songs on the album. It can be interpreted by any member of the quartet at their discretion, so they can join in here or there, the music gains unpredictability and variable layers in each piece. Lossing calls this method transparent composition. "Everyone learns all the parts, and then we try to perform the music in such a way that everyone can freely choose where, when and how to grasp a section of the written material," explains the author. "There are short bass lines that repeat or not, tempos and meters can be strict or completely ignored, the melody doesn't necessarily correspond metrically." It's like Paul Motian meets Edgar Varés. A shining example of this concept are two variations of the same song - Cloned and Cloned Again. The first version sounds almost obscure thanks to el. a piano with a wah-wah pedal, bubbling there, thickened by a dark bass clarinet. In the latter, the voices pile up almost chaotically, creating a kaleidoscopic image that sinks into the minimalist bottom and re-emerges, and even soars.
The events on the street are the essential inspiration of the entire album. It opens with the composition Honk, drawing on the cacophony of horns, strangely uncluttered, then driven by free jazz. The duo Parallel Park and Move It Over presents a complex dance while maneuvering in a small space, therefore with a cramped mood and variably striking or torn grooves and no less dynamic solo choruses. Next 3 km (the longest composition on the album – 9:41) is fueled by a cinematic mood, especially tidally noir, variably dramatic. Double Park, another nine-minute film, is inspired by the boredom of sitting in a car for an hour and a half. The whole thing is darkened (someone would find a Zen attitude in it, but not me), thickening, graduated. It evokes Ravel's famous Bolero in me. Rainy Ramadan, visceral, even mysterious, hides a remarkable story that I will let the author tell: “One day I went down the street to move my car, but I was the only one. Then I found out it was Ramadan and the cleaning was suspended. I felt an indescribable happiness then, because it was also raining. So I went back to the apartment and wrote this piece." The nine-minute Meter Maid is a complicated polyrhythmic dance played in unison, until later a seventies funk groove bursts out of it, and the subsequent ride is enhanced by tenor sax solos and ferocious electric. piano. The final track is the minimalistic composition Turn, evoking the mixed rhythm of raindrops and windshield wipers by the car, in which the author is waiting for the start of that Skatulat, swing...
A truly unique album by a jazz innovator!
July/August 2023 issue of Relix Magazine