Matt Criscuolo,
Lotus Blossom
(M, 2006)

Lotus Blossom begins as a melancholy melange of piano and horn sounds blending smoothly into a piece that implies the tone and sounds of Dexter Gordon. The music of this first piece, however, soon yields to melancholia and thence to dissonance. Sadly the music in Lotus Blossom does not stir the soul nor move the heart with the elements that made Scott Joplin's themes so magic. Then, too, the rough-edged color of Gordon's music is merely hinted at, such as a pupil's copy of a true masterwork invariably appears.

"Wilson's Pencil" is more dissonant, yet bears listening to several times, and then as part of the overall theme of the CD. With their bossa nova feel, the next two pieces yield a good horn sound, with passion, fire and perhaps some regret for what might have been thrown in. The fourth piece, "Everything I Have is Yours," begs for Kurt Weil lyrics and a singer with a breathy, unearthly tone, to make this music real. As it is, the music provides more of a lounge lizard background to conversations better held elsewhere if one wants to really hear the music and be moved to soar.

Despite these quibbling caveats, the artists on this CD -- Matt Criscuolo, alto sax; Larry Willis, piano; Steve Davis, trombone; Phil Bowler, bass; Eric McPherson, drums; and Ray Mantilla, percussion -- are all talented and quite obviously conversant with this genre.

Several of the pieces here could benefit from vocals, and certainly inspire words that are unspoken or unsung. Thus, the tunes themselves, while well-written, performed and arranged, needed more and more to make one feel interested. As it is, Lotus Blossom is a piece that is unfinished, and is really only the canvas to larger parts of a bigger whole.

review by
Ann Flynt

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