I’ve been going on and on about the wonderful and daring Swiss and Russian jazz albums I’ve been receiving, and how their distinctly European takes on simple trios and quartets has re-energized my enthusiasm for contemporary jazz over the last few weeks. But there’s that lingering question–am I suggesting that their American counterparts are somehow slacking? Bassist and composer Greg Loughman provides an adamant “no” with his new album, Re: Connection, which is surprising and original in many of the same ways as those other international releases.
I’ve discussed bassists-as-leaders before, and how they’re always generous to their bandmates by supplying a solid, almost unassailable foundation. Greg Loughman is front and center most of the time, usually introducing each of these original compositions, which are all based around the ideas of division in our society. Starting off with a solemn adaptation of a Civil War-era song, “Disunion,” which was originally known as “Darling Nelly Grey,” Loughman takes off with his muse in tow. His rotating ensemble of horn players, vocals, and a solid core trio that includes drummer Tyson Jackson and pianist Anastassiya Petrova, they all diverge and converge and re-focus in a way that can border on the surreal.
I’ve just mentioned the x factor, of course, those strange sounds that Greg Loughman sometimes allows onto his stage, drones and sound effects that float like ghosts in the background. They move surreptitiously and connect these musicians and the melodies, an action described as “evoking the distance we feel from each other,” especially during the pandemic.
What are these sounds, and where do they come from? Faris Ishaq plays the nay, which is a large wooden flute that can sound very breathy and guttural, and guitarist Max O’Rourke, who is also credited with “sounds.” Whatever they are, they’re weirdly exhilarating and ominous, like the fading moments of Portishead’s third album, almost a glimpse from another plane of existence. The cumulative effect of this music and these sounds treats me to the strange and imaginative ideas I’ve been hearing from the international jazz artists, and Greg Loughman should expect plenty of attention on the world jazz stage after Re: Connection. Highly recommended.