CD review

Lorne Lofsky – ‘This Song Is New’

Lorne Lofsky – This Song Is New
(Modica Music. Album review by Denny Ilett)

Canadian Lorne Lofsky (b.1954) is a name that guitarists of all persuasions, over the last four decades, have consistently held in awe for his extensive harmonic and melodic language which, at times, has his guitar sounding almost like a piano.

Despite touring and recording with the likes of Oscar Peterson and Chet Baker through the 1980’s and into the 90’s,  Lofsky –  unlike contemporaries such as Pat Metheny and John Scofield – has kept a relatively low public profile choosing, instead, to follow a career as a highly sought-after educator. Along with a packed private roster of students, Lofsky also teaches at York University and Humber College, both in Toronto.

This, then, is Lofsky’s first album as leader for 25 years, and it represents a much anticipated and welcome return to the recording studio with his long time partners-in-crime Kirk MacDonald (saxophone), Kieran Overs (bass) and Barry Romberg (drums).

Consisting of five new Lofsky compositions, bookended by Victor Feldman’s Seven Steps To Heaven and Benny Golson’s Stable Mates, this “get-together with friends” was not originally intended for release. The band had gone in to the Modica Music Studio in Toronto for what has been described as “a casual read-through”.

The whole set, with the majority captured on the first take, is a snapshot of where Lorne Lofsky is now as a guitarist, bandleader and composer. Despite his career stretching back to the early 1980’s (see interview, link below), Lorne is an artist who is constantly searching, learning and discovering or, as he puts it “trying to add more information to my vocabulary”.

As the album unfolds, one is struck by the musical empathy between these four friends. At times, it’s a little like eavesdropping on a private conversation. Intimacy is the key here; there’s nothing bombastic about this record. Each piece is carefully treated like a valuable artefact as each group member takes their turn to guard the integrity of the music before passing on to the next.

That’s not to say there aren’t surprises though, albeit subtle and tasteful. Seven Steps To Heaven enjoys an outing in 5/4 with both Romberg and Overs at their loosest as Lofsky and MacDonald float over and around them.

Live from The Apollo, a tune inspired by the legendary Harlem nightspot – and also by Neil Armstrong and John Coltrane –  is based, in Lofksy’s words “on Giant Steps, with alternate changes…and an alternate melody”…

For someone who enjoys wordplay as much as he does, Lorne took the harmony from the old standard Pennies From Heaven, completely turned it inside out and had it re-emerge as Evans From Lennie drawing on two of his major inspirations Lennie Tristano and Bill Evans.

Benny Golson’s Stable Mates, well known as a post-bop ‘swinger’ undergoes a subtle harmonic and rhythmic reworking before settling into the 7/4 Bossa that closes the album.

Whether Lorne Lofsky and the group will choose to tour This Song Is New remains to be seen but I, for one, certainly hope they do. It’s a gorgeous album full of warmth, intuition and stunning yet gentle interplay that deserves to elevate Lofsky from the realm of the ‘guitar world’ and into the hearts and minds of the broader jazz public.

The Song is New is released on 2 April 2021

LINKS: Podcast interview with Lorne Lofsky from 2019
Lorne Lofsky’s website
More details of This Song is New
A sample lesson from Lorne Lofsky

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