Andy Laster's Lessness

Window Silver Bright

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Repeated listenings may be necessary to discern Andy Laster's methodology here, which -- as described in Bill Shoemaker's sometimes rather arcane liner notes -- involves the "embedding" of motifs from one composition into the composition immediately preceding it; one might try listening to the CD's tracks in reverse order, beginning with the ninth and ending with the first, to get a fuller appreciation of the concept at work. But Window Silver Bright sounds wonderful from start to finish (beginning at the beginning and ending at the end), and the CD's magic in large part derives from Laster's ability to produce such accessible and enjoyable music while apparently employing such a rigorous compositional approach. Ultimately, the second album by Laster's Lessness group concerns itself mainly with the contrast between jazz's freedom and the ability of modern composition to spin out complex narratives -- and finding the balance between improvisation and composition that brings out the best in each. The soloists sail over, under, around, and through some truly knotty rhythmic and harmonic changes, and both the soloists and accompanists seem enlivened in the process. Trumpeter Cuong Vu and cellist Erik Friedlander are the ensemble's secret weapons: Vu builds his statements into a near roar that almost sounds electronically enhanced, a trumpet exploding into a spray of radio static, while Friedlander tricks the ear with his nimble, even funky, pizzicato -- you'd swear this group has a bassist until Friedlander takes the arco approach on a track like "The Rooascend." Featured exclusively on the baritone sax, Laster himself is filled with funk and earthiness, while Bryan Carrott embodies the brightness of the album's title on vibes and marimba and drummer Michael Sarin swings, rocks, and cajoles in his customarily expert fashion. Fans of Laster, New and Used, and Myra Melford's the Same River, Twice will find much to enjoy here, and New World deserves credit for supporting another winning project from the downtown crowd.

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