Review on Webzine Opduvel by Gert Derkx 5/2019
Not long after the excellent CD Live at JazzCase, the flutist Mark Alban Lotz, who was born in Berlin and lives in the Netherlands, comes now with a trio CD release entitled The Wroclaw Sessions. The title already indicates that the album was recorded in Poland. They are two young Polish musicians who form the trio together with Lotz: Grzegorz Piasecki on double bass and Wojciech Buliński on drums.
Lotz has studied both jazz and classical and does embrace experiment, witness his highly varied CD Solo Flutes, which was released in 2014. On this trio album, however, it is pure jazz, based on compositions, that it’s all about. And the German Dutchman is able to celebrate his desire for musical freedom here. His two Polish companions make as much as impression as the flautist.
In addition to four of his own compositions, of which Lotz has written two with Piasecki, The Wroclaw Sessions features five pieces by other composers. The trio does not opt for the easiest way, although they also not delved deeply into obscurity. Experienced jazz lovers will recognize the tracks and “Pata Pata” by Miriam Makeba will seem familiar to everyone. More importantly, the trio gives these originals its own twist.
The album opens with Sam Rivers ‘Euterpe’, the original of which can be found on the 1967 album ‘Contours’. On that album you hear a quintet with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and Herbie Hancock on piano. In the Mark Lotz Trio a second wind player and a piano are missing. The bass sounds deeper than in the original and the lack of a chord instrument turns out to be an advantage instead of a disadvantage. Lotz’s solo performance is technically clever, creative and versatile, with a great sense of melody. The hard snare drum from Buliński provides a sharp edge and the bass solo from Piasecki also bears witness to melodic ingenuity.
“Franz” is a piece by Michael Moore Lotz performed with singer / pianist Marieke Snijders and bass player Marco van Os as well. The contrast with the version of this trio is great. No vocals and no piano here, but an excellent rhythm section that, in a calm cadence, directs the composition along a bumpy path. This constantly moving rhythm section forms an ideal foundation for Lotz’s flexible flute playing. It is good to hear that the flute-bass drums give breathing space to the music and that the musicians, although they do not play together on a regular basis, complement each other perfectly. The melodic bass solo by Piasecki is beautiful, and the drum playing by Buliński, who lays a sort of round pattern on his own, is a fine example of musical finesse.
In the hands of the Mark Lotz Trio “Pata Pata” by Miriam Makeba comes with a cool jazzy atmosphere. That is at the expense of the exuberance of the song, and completely compensated by the low flute playing in the theme. Lotz does not indulge in superfluous decorations and even keeps his solo modest. The ensemble playing with the melody lines is beautiful. The trio turns the piece back to its bare essence.
The in the original version the rather busy “Segment” by Charlie Parker is turned upside down by the trio in the first part. With long strokes, Piasecki sets the tone in the quiet first minutes, where Buliński with his cymbals and strokes on the edge of a tom creates tension, while the flute has free rein. After that long intro, Parker’s fast pace is picked up. Compared to the original, the lack of the piano and the therefore calmer sound is striking. And of course the use of flute instead of alto saxophone. Lotz shows himself to be an imaginative soloist in the swift game.
The most striking cover on the album is “Song of Delilah”, from the film “Samson and Delilah” from 1949. The composition was originally from Victor Young, but also became known in the version of Nat King Cole. The Mark Lotz Trio manages to bring the sentimental song back to a supercooled jazz instrumental that has much more expressiveness than the (over-) orchestrated versions from which the song derives its fame.
All attention to the arrangements of the music of others does not do enough justice for their own compositions. They fit seamlessly with the other pieces and are no less. “Raaste Men” is one of the most beautiful pieces on the album, thanks to the cool and tightly operating rhythm section, which excels in a duet towards the end of the piece, and Lotz’s flute playing, which is peppered with Eastern influences. “Lullaby for Tymon” is an intimate piece, based on a continuous bass line by Piasecki, in which Lotz’s breathing can be clearly heard in the flute playing.
Lotz’s urge for experiment comes forward in the short “Slap, Kick & Stop”, a strong rhythmic piece in which he plays the bass flute and also uses his voice. The influence of the rhythm section is hard to underestimate. In “Little Shiva” the smooth bass line and the drums played with brushes with a lot of emphasis on the snare are already a listening experience in itself. Despite the smooth playing, the rhythm has something angular. The depth of the double bass is well reflected in an exciting solo.
The Wroclaw Sessions is an album of three musicians that, if you didn’t know better, you would suspect they’ve been playing together for years. In the hands of Lotz the flute is a wonderful solo instrument and he can build on a rhythm section that is focused and is solid as a rock. The album has more than enough variation but also forms a coherent whole. A beautiful pure jazz album.