Andy Laster

Interpretations of Lessness

SGL 1515-2

“The ever-present architectural tinge is tempered by a vivid sense of humour…This is left-leaning music that eschews the predictability of similar expressions for a pithier, more keenly coherent sound. Its ever-shifting scenes dodge cliche, assuring that every move carries a colorful logic. And adds up to a big triumph.”

— Jim Macnie, Jazziz


Andy Laster’s previous CD on Songlines with his group Hydra received one review calling it “high quality chamber jazz…it’s as if a free group were playing Third Stream abstractions” (Ben Watson, Hi-Fi News). This time out Laster has positioned himself closer to neo-classical chamber music without in any way sacrificing the jazz feel (not to mention the beauty) of his composing and arranging, or depriving himself and his musical collaborators of opportunities for improvisation. This suite of pieces inspired by Samuel Beckett’s short prose work “Lessness” establishes an off-kilter yet richly appealing sound world that evokes, in Laster’s words, “something of the rhythms, colors, sadness, and obtuse, oddly-vaudevillian humor” of Beckett’s writing. Beckett constructed his text by picking sentences out of hats and ordering them into paragraphs; Laster works with repetition and structural variation too but seems even more concerned with timbral possibilities, melodic line, and counterpoint, and above all with the modulation of sometimes fleeting and indefinable emotional states. Poised between expressive worlds, Interpretations of Lessness will find its audience among those who appreciate both the precision/concision of 20th century classical music and the adventurousness and exuberance of jazz. 20-bit recording.

Rooted in the jazz tradition, Laster’s episodic compositions explore asymmetrical improvisational structures and their relationship to fully-notated sections. He currently leads and composes for Interpretations of Lessness and Hydra. Recent projects include performances at P.S. 122 with Dan Froot’s Dancing Saxophone Quartet, European tours with Hydra, a U.S. tour with Orange then Blue, and a record on Enja, Too Close to the Pole, as part of Bobby Previte’s Weather Clear, Track Fast.

Cellist/composer Erik Friedlander performs and records on the NY jazz/improvisation scene (John Zorn, Joe Lovano, Phil Woods) and with pop artists (The Story, Maxwell, Paula Cole). He appears on several recent CDs including Dave Douglas’ Five (Soul Note), Marty Ehrlich’s Just Before the Dawn (New World), guitarist/composer Scott Johnson’s Rock, Paper, Scissors (Point), Zorn’s Bar Kohkba (Tzadik), Myra Melford’s The Same River, Twice (Gramavision), and Marc Puricelli’s The Shade (MusicMasters Jazz). In 1996 Erik’s quartet Chimera – which includes Andrew d’Angelo and Chris Speed of Human Feel – released a self-titled CD (Avant) and The Watchman (Tzadik).

Trumpeter/composer Cuong Vu plays/records with Dave Douglas’ Sanctuary (Avant), Bobby Previte (Too Close to the Pole), Orange Then Blue (While You Were Out, GM), and Mark Helias. He leads the group Punk and the Junk in his Brain, and co-leads the groups Saft/Vu and Ragged Jack (Ragged Jack, Avant) with keyboard player/accordionist Jamie Saft.

Drummer Kenny Wollesen, originally based in San Francisco, has played and recorded with John Zorn, Tom Waits, Big John Patton, and the New Klezmer Trio, played with Art Lande, Marc Ribot, Wayne Horvitz, and Slide Hampton, and recorded with Dave Binney, Hal Wilner, Nick Cave, Jim Hall, and Eddie Henderson. He is currently gigging with Madeleine Peyroux, Sex Mob, Ilhan Ersahin, and Kamikaze Ground Crew. He can also be heard on the Marty Ehrlich/Ben Goldberg collaboration Light at the Crossroads (Songlines).


Jim Macnie’s top 10 jazz for 1997, Billboard and Jazziz

Writers Choice 1997, Marc Chénard and Robert Hicks, Coda

“…one of the recent gems of the downtown improvising scene.” — Ben Ratliff, NY Times

**** “An abstract, intuitive performance that’s also a lot of fun in its own way…Stylistic breaks and subversions are prominent…Laster’s musical interpretation comes across in a fancifully aleatoric design that presents some fresh platforms for his impressive group’s improvisations.” — Aaron Cohen, Down Beat

“Laster’s group sculpts classicized jazz improvisations that are light and fluid, clever and poignant by turns…” — Kyle Gann, Village Voice

modern/avant jazz/third stream
  1. Earth Sky Body
  2. Blessed Days
  3. Ruins True Refuge
  4. Space of a Step
  5. Other Nights Better Days
  6. Little Void
  7. Pale Blue
  8. Air Heart
  • Andy Laster, alto & baritone sax, compositions
  • Erik Friedlander, cello
  • Cuong Vu, trumpet
  • Kenny Wollesen, drums, glockenspiel, marimba, bells, temple blocks
  • 20 bit recording
  • Release Date
    March 31, 1997