These Are The Words/Narratives to be released March 2011.
CD release show: March 29th 2011 @ Cornelia St. Cafe featuring The Steven Lugerner Septet
A Bay Area transplant to the NYC scene, multi-reedist Steven Lugerner releases two albums that display the full spectrum of his compositional abilities. A student of such luminaries as Fred Hersch, Ralph Alessi, Jamie Baum, Jane Ira Bloom and fellow multi-instrumentalist Charles Pillow, Narratives features Lugerner’s working septet, while on These are the Words he is joined by trumpeter Darren Johnston, pianist Myra Melford, and drummer Matt Wilson.
Heard throughout both discs on alto and soprano saxophones, flute, clarinet and double reeds, Lugerner’s musical training began in the third grade on clarinet. From there, he became involved through concert and symphonic bands throughout his school career, including the Peninsula Youth Orchestra, where he discovered and picked up the oboe. “Doubling was something I fell into; it’s the way I function in playing music,” says Lugerner. “Whenever I’m writing music or improvising, I never hear my role being exclusively on one instrument. I always hear certain portions of any given piece played by different instruments. Doubling has leaked into all other aspects of my musical life.”
Comprised of a crew of good friends and fellow New School alumni, the septet on Narratives was born out of Lugerner’s diverse musical background. “Symphonic music is a really heavy influence, and being a part of a youth orchestra at such an early age certainly rubbed off on how I hear and conceive music in my head.”
Musically maturing around San Francisco’s burgeoning hardcore/metal scene and the city’s diverse cultural environment, Narratives was conceptualized with a wide-reaching aesthetic. Each member of the band was selected for their specific sound, with trumpeter Itamar Borochov’s idiosyncratic trumpet style balancing Lucas Pino’s tenor virtuosity; pianist Glenn Zaleski’s “improvised symphonies” colored by guitarist Angelo Spagnolo’s sonic manipulations; anchored by the fat rhythm section of Ross Gallagher on bass and Michael Davis on drums. “All of these compositions have been floating around in my head for close to four years,” Lugerner says. “Each one has seen multiple rewrites and revisions, slowly blossoming into individual narratives."Calling the Torah "the ultimate narrative,” These are the Words is based on The Five Books of Moses and the practice of Gematria, which assigns numerical values to the Hebrew alphabet. A method favored by medieval Kabbalists, Gematria was often used to derive further insight into the mystical interrelationship between words and ideas.
Lugerner’s move to New York prompted a rediscovery of his Jewish heritage. “I began studying with a local rabbi, in addition to Judeo-Christian theology courses at the New School. During that time, I was exposed to a lot of new ideas and knowledge. Somewhere along the line, I was introduced to Gematria.” Lugerner uses multiple Gematria methods as his compositional and improvisational launching point, selecting verses from the Torah and applying their Gematria numbers. These numbers were utilized in compositional techniques: in the creation of melodies and harmony, as intervallic relationships to use in improvising, time signatures, and tempo markings. “I wanted to create Jewish music that didn’t necessarily sound overtly Jewish. I wondered if it was possible to create something undeniably Jewish, just by its association with its raw materials.”
With all this underlying structure, These are the Words is still full of spontaneity and vibrancy. The compositions allow much space for improvisation, and the full band only met in the studio to record. The ensemble was inspired by a show Lugerner saw at the Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco, featuring Melford and Johnston with clarinetist Ben Goldberg and bassist Lisa Mezzacappa. The quirky instrumentation and Melford’s intensity stuck with Lugerner. Johnston often fills the trumpet chair in Lugerner’s septet on the West Coast, and Melford’s playing history with Wilson spans many years. This pair of pairings defines the sound of These are the Words as much as its lack of bass. “Playing without bass, I felt, would free Myra and Matt’s roles, and would expose the colors in what Darren and I are playing,” says Lugerner, describing the specificity of the mute and reed combinations that shift throughout the album.
The large sound of Narratives, shaped by three horns and Spagnolo’s wash of guitar effects, jumps out from the opening “Flux Capacitor.” This is contrasted by the intimacy of These are the Words and its emphasis on the subtleties of small ensemble interplay. Lugerner’s music has often been described as cinematic, and both albums clearly reflect that adjective in different ways.
RELEASE DATE: March 2011