Yusef Lateef coined the term ‘heart music’ to convey the effect that spiritually and emotionally rich and meaningful music had on his ear. Appropriately enough Lena Bloch has created a book of music that would – in her view – not only appeal to Mr Lateef, but she has shared it with three other terrific musicians and then got together with them to commit the music to disc. Heart Knows is that disc, and it takes its name from the song that Lena Bloch has written for the occasion; one of two songs that pay rich tribute to what she seems to have learned from the master, Yusef Lateef.
It may be said that all of the music is a tribute to Mr Lateef; after all he was an important mentor to Lena Bloch. The pieces are soft, profoundly meditative works and are indisputable proof of how close the saxophonist keeps music to her own heart. All have a freshness and the composer’s uniquely lyrical facility. “Esmeh” and “Munir” (together with “Lateef Suite” and “Heart Song”, of course) possess a deeper emotional level and a complete mastery of form. The former has a somewhat darker tone than the others. This is immediately apparent in the turbulent opening, spiraling downward as it exudes an air of anxiety which melts into a more serene feeling as it progresses. Russ Lossing contributes the other remarkable compositions which are as equally melodic and beautiful as ever.
All of the music contains ideas and executions that point to Lena Bloch’s ability to write poignant melodies. Each is wonderfully mysterious and atmospheric and every one of the songs has an undertow of raw power that drives their melodies forward. All are extraordinarily crafted compositions, defining a mood in the space of a bar or two, and take precious little time to completely infiltrate the listener’s mind before letting it go. At their best these pieces are as touching as – for instance – some of the miniatures in classical music. Everywhere the musicians of Feathery play with sublime grace. In particular Lena Bloch shows that her emotional range is vast and her melodic directness and limpidity leads the others to grasp immediately the nature of each song.
As always, Lena Bloch is superb throughout. Her approach to the tenor saxophone is completely in line with her melodic style of composing. Her playing here is less dry than that of her first album. However, it is always whisper-soft yet articulate with nuanced enunciation driving every silken-textured utterance. Highly vocal lines drive every song as she makes the notes leap off the page. The rest of the group responds to this music and Lena Bloch’s playing with marvelously characterful interpretations of her marvelous work.
Russ Lossing is beguilingly frank and deeply moving. Billy Mintz brings enormous colour to the work and Cameron Brown is flawless and attuned to the quiet intimacy of this music as only a great musician such as himself can be. The result is a complete triumph with all the beauty of these pieces communicated in utterly focused and poetic readings.
Track list – 1: Lateef Suite; 2: Heart Knows; 3: Three Treasures; 4: French Twist; 5: Esmeh; 6: Counter Clockwise; 7: Munir; 8: Newfoundsong.
Personnel – Lena Bloch: tenor saxophone; Russ Lossing: piano; Cameron Brown: bass; Billy Mintz: drums.
Released – 2017
Label – Fresh Sound New Talent
Runtime – 1:10:12