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Front-rank pianist Lossing, who deserves much wider acclaim, follows up a string of impressive trio albums with an outstanding quartet effort that adds alto/soprano saxophonist Loren Stillman.
Lossing is the kind of artist who can release a straightforward set of standards (Changes), an elegiac tribute to his long-time bandleader (Motian Music) and an impressionistic collection of originals (Mood Suite) — each with a different bassist and drummer — in the span of about 18 months in 2019-’20.
Metamorphism is built on meticulously crafted Lossing originals that frequently call upon his early classical days, and tend to be dark-hued. Unlike some of the pianist’s free-improvisation work, these pieces adhere to loosely constructed rhythms that move easily between grooves and pulses. Bassist John Hébert and drummer Michael Sarin provide supple accompaniment, whether it’s the slow drift of “Blind Horizon (for Andrew Hill),” the hyperactive quasi-funk of “June Jig” or the herky-jerky “Pileatus.”
It’s safe to say that Stillman is very much Lossing’s kind of musician. (In fact, Lossing played on Stillman’s debut recording when the saxophonist was 14 years old.) Stillman’s idiosyncratic playing belongs to no discernible “school.” He darts and weaves in consistently surprising directions, employing serpentine runs that rarely rely on swing-based orthodoxies, but remain coherent and accessible. Stillman’s tone can be tart, or he can fill his horn with breath and make it gauzy, quivering, flute-like.
Lossing is, plain and simple, a monster. With a richly resonant sound, he probes and wanders, darts, stabs, pokes around, then suddenly dazzles with an extended cascade that’ll raise the hairs on your neck. His technical prowess allows him to play as in or as out as he chooses, and he more or less splits the difference here in yet another masterful showing.
Metamorphism extends Lossing’s streak of triumphs.