Oracle (2011) All About Jazz
By MARK CORROTO
Pianist Russ Lossing's trio evokes a dreamlike state on Oracle, by communicating an atmosphere of unearthly elegance through trance-inducing energy.
Lossing, bassist Masa Kamaguchi and drummer Billy Mintz commune at this level because they'd been a working trio for six years when this studio recording was made in 2007. Besides that, all three bring experience from the fertile jazz world: Lossing, as a member of bands led by Paul Motian, Dave Liebman, and Mat Maneri; Kamaguchi, with Frank Kimbrough, Matt Renzi, and John O'Gallagher; and Mintz, in bands with Vinny Golia, Tony Malaby, and Nels Cline.
Like his previous recordings—the solo All Things Arise (Hatology, 2007) and trio session, As It Grows (Hatology, 2004) (with Motian and Ed Schuller)—Lossing's composing and playing tends to be meditatively sparse, but satisfyingly sufficient, petitioning the listener to fill in the gaps of silence. This is accomplished through sometimes achingly slow passages that rely on expression over thrills.
The disc opens with Lossing drifting into the melody of "Swimming Dragon," as Mintz and Kamaguchi apply accents instead of a pulse, segueing from a simple theme into sliced abstraction. Likewise, the title track begins simply enough, with ruminations on a dream that evolve into a flurry of energy. The trio plays as if its group improvisation is not on the melody, as much as it is a meditation. The solidarity of its fantasy is the attraction here. Even when Thelonious Monk is imagined on Mintz's left-handed tribute, "Beautiful Ugly," the trio eschews stride piano for a two-handed dance, with the drummer supplying his own travel plans. The music is beautifully open, applying time at an unhurried pace that favors accent over cacophony.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD - PRINT REVIEW JULY 2011
Oracle / Russ Lossing
by Anders Griffen
Listening to jazz music, we often hear the influence of the masters filtered through the hearts and minds of new artists. One can pick out major influences right away. However, listening to Russ Lossing’s recent HatHut release, Oracle, we mainly hear Russ Lossing. It’s not that the influences and the tradition are not present. On the contrary, it’s all here and then some – from Scriabin to Bill Evans, Bartok to Paul Bley – but Lossing isn’t a newcomer. He’s not an old timer either, but he’s devoted himself to crafting his language, to “detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within,” as Emerson wrote. His phrases are formed with tone and touch the way a vocalist shapes words with breath and nuance to articulate the message, and he has developed an expansive vocabulary to spark and kindle his explorations. Miles Davis once said “sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself,” and Lossing is doing that. Drummer Billy Mintz and bassist Masa Kamaguchi are kindred spirits. The command these musicians possess allows them to render new forms and build fine structures within these compositions. Much of the program feels quite loose and free. The prized element is space. The ensemble is free to explore in such a way that is only possible when each has all the room in the world and in turn allows the same for his trio-mates – that is great ensemble work. This space opens dimensions of possibilities as the subtle articulates minute details in the worlds discovered within each piece. The listener, too, is granted abundant space. The recording is very successful in preserving the character of the instruments with enough headroom and air that they don’t interfere with one another sonically. There is room to really savor the tones of each expression. This is fine music for attentive listening. “Beautiful Ugly” and “Love and Beauty” are highlights. Witnessing a live performance is highly recommended.