|For Lossing, improvisation is clearly a special act, a study in transparence and transformation, a creative exchange among the elements. One hears fresh relations of time and space. His acute sense of time connects inevitably to its absence. Space is heard in his sense of density, the room he can make around a note even at high speed, the contrasts between counterpoint and elegant strings of single notes. Space is also vertical in Lossing’s music--in the ways that wide and tight intervals interact in his chords. This solo CD seems almost two-sided, like the LP of tradition. There is a side of free improvisations followed by treatments of largely familiar themes. We might think of it as a voyage inward and a voyage outward; a journey forward followed by one into the past. — Stuart Broomer
New York City-based pianist Ross Lossing’s previous trio effort for this Swiss record label, features flotation-like attributes, partly due to drummer Paul Motian’s distinctive strokes and accents. Nonetheless, Lossing is a thinking man’s pianist. With this newly issued solo effort, the artist segments tracks into an improvised suite, followed by renditions of jazz standards and one original work.
On the initial four pieces titled “Suite: All Things Arise,” Lossing presents a diversified series of motifs, built on contrapuntal chord clusters, fractured stride piano passages and trance-like themes. His multidimensional thought processes are put to good use here, to coincide with minimalist avant-classical segments and muscular block chord based phrasings. Lossing is an inventor of off-kilter stylizations, often stitched together into loosely realized conceptions that sustain gobs of interest. Then on the more structured works such as Sonny Rollins’ “Pent-Up House,” Lossing executes free-bop statements with lucidly enacted panoramas. And with his composition “Verse,” he commingles swarming clusters with contrasting elements of beauty and discontent. No doubt, Lossing presents an engaging arc of ideas throughout these investigative endeavors. There’s a lot going on under the hood, so to speak.
Review courtesy of All About Jazz:
Stuart Broomer’s ponderous liner notes to Russ Lossing’s latest release correctly point out that the track sequencing suggests a “side one” and “side two,” as would an old vinyl album (“the LP of tradition,” as Broomer says). The first side is given over to a suite of freely improvised music with echoes (probably unwitting) of various moments in 20th Century classical piano. Side two replaces these with more deliberate jazz echoes as Lossing takes on an idiosyncratic set of standards and near-standards.
Lossing has a long list of credits, including most recently the acclaimed trio date As It Grows (Hat Hut, 2004) with Ed Schuller and Paul Motian, but All Things Arise is his first solo piano recording. Judging from the two opening segments of the side one suite, it sounds like he’s been holding himself back up until now: in an unflagging avalanche of ideas, uncompromisingly avoiding rote or formulaic elements, “All Things Arise” and “Interdependence” penalize attention deficit on the part of listeners. Having gotten that out of his system, the latter two movements are gentler (but no less demanding of the listener’s attention).
Side two, though ostensibly familiar ground for jazz fans, is only marginally less rigorous. Contrast Lossing's approach to standards with Marilyn Crispell's, for example. In her renditions of “Ruby, My Dear” and “When I Fall In Love” on her excellent Live in San Francisco (Music & Arts, 1990), the familiar themes only begin to crystallize out of the musical shards at the end of the performances, rather like an echo played backwards. Lossing instead seems to interleave elements of the compositions throughout his performance of what are essentially his own improvised musical structures.
Lossing’s own brief notes on his treatment of the tunes are helpful, if enigmatic. For example, he tells us that he “improvised the harmony” of Ornette Coleman’s “Kathelin Grey,” thereby removing, for me, the original’s sweetness. But that's okay, given that he injects a certain sweetness into Kurt Weill’s “Alabama Song,” which is “really a blues of sorts,” after all.
Like Assif Tsahar and Tatsuya Nakatani's Solitude (Hopscotch, 2006), another recent uncompromising work of free improvisation, All Things Arise ends with a Duke Ellington masterpiece. In fact there are two readings of Ellington’s “Azure,” providing the most recognizable moments on the record. One can distinguish not only the lovely melody, but also the interspersed anarchic arpeggios that recall Art Tatum’s mid-1950s solo recordings.
Paradoxically, even as Lossing's maelstrom of beautifully played notes is energizing, it can also be tiring. But let's be clear: it is never tiresome.