Hard Bop News from Michael Lauren’s All Stars

Michael Lauren Old School CD cover

In the blog’s second visit with Michael Lauren, he talks about his newest CD, a collaborative effort in both performance and composition: “Old School/Fresh Jazz.”

The high-spirited “Lisboa Boogaloo” delivers unadulterated fun; no fuss, no muss, just joy. “More Soul” is appropriately titled with a beguiling solo from guitar. Sax and drums trade barbs and toss challenges to each other in “A Fresh Jazz Drum and Saxophone Duet,” the pace requiring a solid display of innovative call-and-response. The sweet golden unity in “You Want It You Got It” gives a smart melody and a brilliant, ear-catching rhythm; and “2-4” glows with a fastidious and creative sax.

A generous compilation of sparkling new music, this CD delivers its jazz promise multiple times over.

How does the sound of your earlier “Once Upon A Time In Portugal” differ from this new CD?

The first CD had a similar sound from track to track because most of compositions were in the hard bop tradition. Once the sound and the balance of the rhythm section and the horns was set, it was kept pretty much the same throughout the album, except for an occasional minor change here and there.

The new CD has a greater variety of styles and compositions. Each track has a somewhat different approach. Overall, the sound is fatter and deeper on this album. Except for the duets, the drums were placed in the center and inside the band (similar to the first record).

I like that concept for drums because for me that makes the music warmer, natural and more cohesive.

There are 16 tracks. That’s a lot of material. How long in the making?

At the end of 2017, I told the band that I wanted to record a new album in either the late winter or early spring of the New Year.

Like the first CD, I asked for material from anyone who wanted to contribute to the new album. I told the guys that I wanted the CD to retain some of the hard bop tradition, but that they could write what they thought would work best for the instrumentation and sound of the band. I also asked some guys to write a specific type of tune and went outside the band for an original hard bop tune when I felt that the album needed another one.

I am grateful that my band and Portugal as a whole has such excellent composers. We played some of tunes on the album during gigs in the months preceding the sessions. I created the rhythmic ideas and soloing concepts for each of the duets about a month before the recording sessions. The duets and the tunes that hadn’t been played previously were played for the first time on the recording date itself.

I guess the total preparation time was around three months. We did the recording over three days and the bulk of the mixing was done in five days, with additional tweaks and changes done later.

The biggest surprise related to this project?

That the album captures the current eclectic state of Contemporary Jazz. Although this was not my initial objective, I think it is great that this is what has occurred.

What was your most recent master class about?

My most recent Master Class was titled “Welcome To Odd Times: A Method For Learning To Play In Odd Meters In All Styles.” It included the skills and concepts drummers need to know in order to develop a comprehensive odd-meter approach.

Unless you have the solo as a drummer, talk about the joy in providing the texture behind the lead sax or trumpet.

Accompanying a soloist (within a style’s parameters) has a number of objectives including framing the form of the solo structure, laying down a consistent flow, creating rhythmic challenges, having a conversation with the soloist and creating tension and release within the solo. The joy for me is performing these tasks, as well as listening to what the soloist has to say in order to support his ideas.

I am always very happy if I helped create excitement in the solo and provided a groove that not only inspires the soloist but also contributes to the soloist’s musical statement in a way that gets an audience to respond.

Other comments?

I wanted my second album to be an eclectic, exciting, accessible, and inclusive record that would not only feature my versatility as a drummer but would also highlight the talents of the All Stars.

I believe I have achieved my objective.

 For more information, visit www.michael-lauren.com.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Michael Lauren.
© Debbie Burke 2018


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