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Lauren Sevian: Bliss

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Lauren Sevian: Bliss
Lauren Sevian playing the baritone saxophone with the Mingus Big Band, Confederation Park, Ottawa Jazz Festival Thursday June 28. photograph by Ashley Fraser for The Ottawa Citizen

Lauren Sevian proves to be a consummate low-reeds virtuoso. More importantly, she proves she has a sublime rhythmic grasp of the bebop idiom and displays both of these facets of her musicianship on Bliss . Just because she is a woman playing the difficult baritone saxophone in a man’s world, Miss Sevian is going to face especially close scrutiny – it’s the unfortunate way of the world of Jazz – but naysayers and refusniks are going to find that when it comes technique and to music, especially the intricacies of bebop and the unique challenges of the ballad, Miss Sevian yields nothing to the finest recordings made today or most days; nor does she yield to anyone and in the ten songs of Bliss with her accuracy of articulation and in the power of her passion Miss Sevian captures the full range of her tone like raw-silk in a resonant acoustic.

The disc begins with “Triple Water”, a foxy title and pungent song and Miss Sevian is capriciously playful. Playing with disarming easy, one might easily be fooled into thinking she merely tossed us a backhander. Moreover, clearly her poetic writing has a pellucid simplicity that betrays none of the sweat that went into writing it. As Miss Sevian uses minimal vibrato her characteristic sound is clean and dry, and when she gives us histrionics they are uniquely feminine, but also sinuous. Yet there is nothing vain or pretentiously ”original”. Still, the music is marvellously “of the tradition” – elegant, forceful, and seemingly weightless – and achieve a thoughtful eloquence that recalls even the very best original work by men like Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter. “Blusishness”, “Miss Lady” and “Evergreen” are but three glorious examples of this exemplary work.

Not surprisingly, considering her musical facility Miss Sevian not only displays an improvisatory freshness to the music in all of its idiomatic brilliance and she plays it all a certain attractive femininity given the aggressive substance and muscularity required of the big baritone horn. The mood-changes – from wildly swinging and full-blooded boppish grooves to elegiac balladry is utterly convincing and magnificent. There is also the small matter of the musicians who elevate Miss Sevian’s playing on this date. Bassist Christian McBride, drummer E.J. Strickland, pianist Robert Rodriguez and – the inimitable surprise of all – alto saxophonist Alexa Tarantino, who also contributes the whimsically wonderful song “Square One” all play with enormous sensitivity and are completely in tune with Miss Sevian’s vision and artistry on this superb album.

Track list – 1: Triple Water; 2: Square One; 3: Bliss; 4: Bluesishness; 5: Goldies Chance; 6: Miss Lady; 7: Lamb and Bunny; 8: In the Loop; 9: Evergreen; 10: Minimal Moves

Personnel – Lauren Sevian: baritone saxophone; Alexa Tarantino: alto saxophone; Robert Rodriguez: piano; Christian McBride: bass; E.J. Strickland: drums

Released – 2019
Label – Posi-Tone Records (PR 8184)
Runtime – 54:13

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