January 5, 2021
By Filipe Freitas
Label: Sunnyside Records, 2021
Personnel - Russ Lossing: piano; Loren Stillman: alto and soprano saxophones; John Hébert:
bass; Michael Sarin: drums.
The authoritative lyricism of pianist/composer Russ Lossing is recognizable on this new
quartet effort in which he pairs down with bassist John Hébert and drummer Michael Sarin to
form a highly sensitive rhythm section. The underrated saxophonist Loren Stillman completes
the group, offering his idiosyncratic melodicism, resignation and full allegiance to Lossing’s
compositional intentions and immersive moods.
The complex attributes of the opener, “Three Treasures”, allow us to find hidden emotional
depth amid the dancing Eastern-tinged melody and sultry harmonic sequences. The four
musicians promptly show to be in full control of their instruments, managing to excavate
groove from the off-kilter ambiance. Sarin’s rhythmic drive and Hebert’s droning tenacity are
notably effective in the back, while, for the most part, Lossing becomes the melodic force at the
fore. The latter’s comping also reveals responsive interaction when Stillman steps forward.
“Sojourn” is an old sleek piece whose polyrhythmic motif and odd tempo make it soar as if it
had no ground. The group rides it with grace, especially Stillman, who infuses his playing with a
Konitz-type of vibe.
Lossing dedicates two pieces on the album to a pair of mentors and influences. If the achingly
beautiful title track, “Metamorphism”, was written for drummer Paul Motian, seeking deep
emotions and emanating tranquility while evoking the latter’s atmospheric jazz, “Blind
Horizon” is an evocative portraiture of the genius pianist Andrew Hill delivered with
incantatory melancholy. The harmonic colors pulled out by the solo piano intro are exquisite,
and the tune unfolds gracefully and gradually with a circling piano figure, sizzling brushwork,
agreeing bass lines and heart-rending soprano articulations. It then segues into a piano
improvisation that cleverly integrates a mix of explicitness and haziness.
Developed from an improvised idea originally recorded with a MIDI keyboard, “June Jig”
completely transfigures this atmosphere by imposing a more expansive, funky procedure
promoted by Hébert and Sarin. The bandleader only comes in at a later time, interacting with
Stillman over a swinging rhythm section.
Relying on the tenderness and charm with which is performed, “Mai” features a bass discourse
sandwiched between saxophone and piano statements, while “Pileatus”, agreeing on a fleet,
playful and iterative idea, directs the spotlight to the drummer.
Lossing continues to compose with as much astuteness as intricacy, and these eight tunes keep reflecting his singular voice.