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Lena Bloch Quartet shines in album, disappoints in live performance

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Lena Bloch Quartet

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On Wednesday, April 9, saxophonist Lena Block and her quartet performed at SEEDS: Brooklyn, an incredibly intimate venue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Accompanied by Guitarist Dave Miller, drummer Billy Mintz and keyboardist Russ Lossing, Bloch was clearly the star of this show. Her beautiful soft tones were a highlight of an often confusing evening of sound.

The concert was very surprising given the sound of her recent release, Feathery. The pieces on Feathery came off well organized and clear, but this concert seemed to be going everywhere and nowhere at once. The first piece, 'Yusef' was written by Bloch herself. 'Yusef' had some very pretty melodic moments from the piano and moments of great virtuosity from guitarist Dave Miller. However, both were lost in a muddy overall sound.

Melodically, there were some effective moments of call and response between Lena and keyboardist Russ Lossing. As a whole, though, the group lacked the cohesiveness demonstrated on Feathery. Perhaps this was due to not having the album's bassist Cameron Brown, who provided tonal clarity throughout the album.

The second piece, 'Two Oceans of Madness' was also by Bloch. By this point, the talent of the individual musicians was clear, but it was as if each of them was in their own bubble. Communication was rare. This type of music requires a great deal of communication to aid the listener in following its complicated structure. Barring that communication, a piece can fall apart and lose the audience.

Midset also came with its highs and lows. Drummer Billy Mintz had an incredibly adept set solo, creating beautiful sounds with felt mallets. However, the third piece, 'High Point', was so introspective it seemed to fold in on itself and forget where it was going. The sounds, especially those created by Lena and keyboardist Russ Lossing were beautiful, but context and climax were missing. The quartet created lovely clouds, but they missed their sky.

On the final number, 'Marshmallow', Lena proved her ability to really move. She kept her soft sound and made it seem easy and effortless, a talent reserved for true musicians. The difference in group cohesiveness from the album though, makes one wonder if the acoustics of the venue were just all wrong for this music. Lena's music and the music she plays are modern tone poems that require a great deal of delicacy and space for sound development.

Ms. Bloch is clearly a talented musician, as her work on Feathery clearly demonstrates. Feathery was released March 18 on Thirteenth Note Records. Find her album on her website and CD Baby.

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