B.D. Lenz,
Lost & Found
(self-produced, 1999)

The future of contemporary jazz sometimes whispers and sometimes wails within the wanton and willful world that exists between the callused fingertips of northern New Jersey-based guitarist B.D. Lenz and the 10-gauge strings of his trademark green Fender Stratocaster. It is there in that split-second world, wherein histories are written, that Lenz sounds the cock's crow for a new dawn of the genre and without thought or conjecture but with a pure, unadulterated instinct for what should lie ahead.

While Lenz's debut recording Tell the World was an acclaimed success in 1997, his most recent CD Lost & Found is a measure of just how far his contemporary jazz group has progressed within this short trickle of time. The nine-track production is an exhilarating combination of jazz, funk, Latin, Zydeco and blues, and if such a blend strikes the fancy, it will prove near impossible not to be enamored by Lenz's self-produced CD.

Lenz, a graduate of the Musician's Institute in Hollywood, Calif., and student of such jazz luminaries as Mike Stern, pianist Charlie Banacos and Vic Juris, approaches song composition by means of relentless experimentation during live performances. He and his bandmates, bassist James Rosocha, drummer Tom Cottone and saxophonist Geoff Mattoon, worked on all the subtleties of the arrangements for Lost & Found in this atmosphere until thoroughly satisfied and comfortable with the material before entering the recording studio.

Evidence of the complexities and creativity of the arrangements, which dominate Lenz's second independent CD, can best be identified in songs like "Primitive" and "Lost & Found." The main section of "Primitive" is in 5/8 as is the B section, but here every fourth bar is in 6/8 with Cottone laying down a drum solo over the vamp. The break section turns polychordal all in 6/8 before Mattoon's saxophone solo over a totally new 5/8 section which then segues into Lenz's guitar solo over the form of the tune. Recorded live in the studio, "Lost & Found" is a 12-minute exploration of mood based on one chord, D major, and one scale, fifth mode of melodic minor, with solos born soft and shy and raised to violent frenzies.

What really differentiates Lenz from his jazz contemporaries is the ability of his instrumental compositions to capture and vividly recreate intimate scenes and portraits. A young couple walks hand-in-hand, but there is no cause to hold on too tight because each knows there is no place the other would rather be tonight, with Cottone winding them down uneven, cobblestone streets and Lenz coaxing the foggy mist into a touch of forgiving rain. Pianist Daniel Mintseris transforms the laughter Mattoon has drawn from their lips into something deeper and now the "Truth Be Told" as love gently glides like leaves on the wind, swirling about their heads, on this crisp autumn evening and for just one perfect moment in time, anything they dare to dream is truly possible.

The remaining tracks on Lost & Found are the up-tempo mixture of Latin samba and funk "Leaving the Ground," the New Orleans' Zydeco-influenced "As If," the jazz/funk/blues "Lazy Bones" with saxophone and guitar solos in a traditional 12-bar jazz blues starting from funk and ending up in swing, the nylon-string acoustic guitar ballad "Wishing You Well," the fusion/funk "Grandma Rosocha" and the jazz-fusion jam "Hot Spot."

Lost is any doubt as to where the future of contemporary jazz lies for in the hands of guitarist B.D. Lenz, it has been found.

[ by Jeff Callahan ]
Rambles: 19 January 2002