“An SF Bay Area transplant to NYC, multi-winds player Steven Lugerner presents two very different sides of his musical personality on this two-CD set: a septet of moody, melancholy, snugly arranged post bop and a quartet of spacious loose-form compositions, both having the common denominator (to varying degrees) of Lugerner’s Jewish hertitage
Narratives is full of downcast, ruminative, thoughtfully orchestrated compositions (two reeds, trumpet, guitar, bass, drums: the sound occasionally evokes Gil Evans and Andrew Hill) that leave plenty of room for soloing. The solos are the high points, especially Lugerner’s, the rich Rollins-like tenor of Lucas Pino, and the arid, fractured but soulful trumpeting of Itamar Borochov. Unfortunately, most of Narratives is so-very-somber, pastel-toned, pensive-to-the-point-of-being-dirge-like "serious” jazz.
These Are The Words is another matter entirely. It’s the product of an unusual context: Lugerner’s winds (including oboe, English horn, and clarinet along with soprano and alto saxophones); Darren Johnston, trumpet; the great Myra Melford, piano, and the also-great Matt Wilson, drums. (There is no bassist.) Some of the Words are on the sober side too, but there is dramatic tension, an air of oblique and mischievous mystery, and invigorating bursts of skronk, crashing percussion, and tightrope-balancing interplay. Where Narratives seems previously doleful, Words balances plaintive ache with volatile, cathartic flare-ups and Art Ensemble-like interplay. There’s ebb, flow, and bracing contrasts. Melford displays her usual energy (well, it’s reined-in a bit) and impeccable lyrical poignancy. (Try to get her unbelievably heartfelt solo on “In The Wilderness” out of your head). Johnston has clearly learned from both Miles and Don Cherry, mixing muted poetry and energized but judicious crackle. Wilson is a touch more subtle here (no, that’s not a veiled put-down of his other words - he too is reined-in from his usual dynamo self) but he proves he’s one of the best drummers around, and Lugerner himself is self-effacing, artfully adding dashes and splashed to his canvas (he composed all of Words and most of Narratives). An odd paring, these two… Narratives is something to respect but These Are The Words is a thing to cherish.“
-Mark Keresman (Signal To Noise Magazine - Issue #62 - Summer 2011)