Steven Lugerner, Russ Johnson, Anton Hatwich, and Michael Sarin | Skylark | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Steven Lugerner, Russ Johnson, Anton Hatwich, and Michael Sarin 

When: Mon., Oct. 14, 10 p.m. 2013
Price: donation suggested
Over the past few years young New York saxophonist Steven Lugerner has repeatedly impressed me with the rigor and conceptual sophistication of his music, and earlier this year he upped the ante substantially with For We Have Heard (No Business/Primary), his second album to feature a terrific bass-free quartet with pianist Myra Melford, trumpeter Darren Johnston, and drummer Matt Wilson. He wrote much of the music using gematria, a traditional rabbinical system of assigning numbers to words and phrases; he devised several methods of translating those numbers into harmonies, time signatures, or note durations. Other pieces he assembled and refined from transcriptions of group improvisations—the meditative “Drove Out Before Us,” for instance, is built from spontaneous melodic phrases Wilson played on his drums. In the press materials, he says his intention was “not to make a jazz record,” and on that count he’s largely succeeded. The album opener, “Us and Our Fathers,” alternates extended lines that recall Morton Feldman with corkscrewing unison patterns on piano and bass clarinet, and “When a Long Blast Is Sounded,” which melds a martial beat with austere, chamberlike shapes played on clarinet, piano, and trumpet, opens up for a lyrical, clarion-toned solo by Johnston and an explosive yet carefully sculpted solo by Wilson. Every piece sounds airy and open but also scrupulously plotted, with improvised sections emerging organically from composed arrangements. Judging from the leaps and bounds Lugerner has made so far in his career, we can expect a lot more from him in the future, but For We Have Heard proves he’s already arrived. For tonight’s concert he’ll be joined by trumpeter Russ Johnson, bassist Anton Hatwich, and drummer Michael Sarin. Lugerner also plays at Constellation on Sat 10/12. —Peter Margasak

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