Looney/Lake/Smoker/Ellis — Urban Ruminations (Metaphysical, 2009)
Continuing the litany of Endangered Blood opening acts, we get to tonight’s show in Oakland at Studio 1510 (at 1510 8th St., Oakland) where the opening band will be a new trio of Scott Looney (piano), Doug Stuart (bass), and Kjell Nordeson (drums).
Of the three, I’m most familiar with Looney, proprietor of 1510. He’s a terrific improvising pianist as well as an electronic musician. And with Studio 1510 he’s hosted some monumental shows for local and visiting artists.
I’ve seen Kjell Nordeson perform a few times. Terrific percussionist in jazz/improv settings as well as the new-music oeuvre; he was featured in one of the Sylvano Bussotti pieces in last week’s sfSound performance. I’m not familiar with Doug Stuart, but, uh, I’m sure he’s a nice guy.
Let’s focus on Looney’s piano playing, though. A couple of CDs show off his dexterity and stage presence in improvised settings, and they demonstrate why you ought to go see this trio tonight.
In the solo Repercussions, Looney flashes a variety of styles including thickly chorded jazz/classical leanings, stacking one spontaneous idea onto another to form strong, arresting pieces. He’s mostly playing the piano straight, unadorned, although prepared piano and fingernails-against-strings show up in a few places. Here’s a rich little segment of the track “luxtasEnTempore,” showing off some nice technique and even handfuls of songlike chords at the end.
I feel like I should showcase one of the more abstract tracks — you know, show off my avant-garde cred — but this one really grabbed me, not for its tuneful moments as much as for its fast, florid technique. Nice stuff.
Urban Ruminations puts Looney in a quartet setting with some amazing partners: Oliver Lake (sax), Paul Smoker (trumpet), and Lisle Ellis (bass). They’ve got an admirable rapport. And while Looney shines as an equal-part leader in most of the pieces, I find myself coming back to this selection of “Monad/The Is Eye,” where Looney takes the role of ersatz drummer, settling into a groove that sparks off some nice horn soloing. (Sample is just less than 2 minutes.)
I don’t know what direction the Looney/Stuart/Nordeson trio would take, but these records might offer a clue. The people who show up to see Endangered Blood will probably get a treat in seeing Looney’s opening act.