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  • Jonathan Widran

BRUCE LOFGREN GROUP, Earthly and Cosmic Tales

In addition to being a top arranger for pop and jazz icons like Kenny Loggins, Donna Summer and Janis Siegel, composer/guitarist Bruce Lofgren has led a cutting-edge jazz ensemble in L.A. for many years, performing at top venues. While keeping his sense of freewheeling compositional adventure intact, his new Bruce Lofgren Group is a bit of a departure from the larger ensembles he’s recorded with in the past.

His new six piece ensemble makes its splashy, infectious debut with the provocatively titled Earthly and Cosmic Tales, a rhythmically eclectic set of eight originals and covers of classics by Van Dyke Parks (the lyrical, classical tinged “Orange Crate Art”) and Stevie Wonder (a soulful and dreamy, free-flowing romp through “Creepin’”). In addition to the colorful mood swinging from haunting and introspective (“Fields of Praise”) to jangling and whimsical (the fast paced, fun-spirited “Tripsy”), perhaps the most beautiful aspect of the sextet’s debut is the unselfishness of the leader in allowing the stalwarts surrounding him to both carry his melodies and create iconic moments as soloists.

One of the coolest parts of having a group that has a B-flat clarinet (Geoff Nudell), cellist (Hope Easton) and vibraphonist (Craig Fundiga) is the colorful mixing and matching of sonic possibilities. So while the lyrical ballad “Fields of Praise” is driven by the charming swirl of all three of those instruments (with clarinet and cello taking the lead), “Tripsy” and the equally upbeat “Red Shift” feature both vibes and clarinet improvisations that truly lift the pieces into the cosmos. Diteto with the playfully strutting “Spend The Night.”

The other prominent soloist throughout is bassist Randy Landas, who chimes in with a moody fretless solo on “Fields of Praise” and electric solos on the rhythmically shapeshifting “String Theory” and “Creepin’.” Hopefully, the sublime, surprise filled Earthly and Cosmic Tales by this incredible ensemble will be more than just a one time gathering between Lofgren and these particular musical cohorts.


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