Think of Carla Bley when she does song compositions-arrangements-performances. Then forget it. Jessica Lurie's music sounds nothing like that. But she does something similar, in that she combines rock, jazz avant and whatnot through personally strong arrangements built around her art songs.
Her second album as the Jessica Lurie Ensemble came out this spring. It's time to talk about it. Megaphone Heart (self released) features Jessica's appealing, down-to-earth vocals, her lucid alto-tenor-baritone and flute, her presence. The band includes Brandon Seabrook, a banjo wizard who has several compelling albums under his own moniker, and he also plays guitar effectively here. Erik Deutsch plies the keys. Todd Sickafoose plays the upright and produced the album. Allison Miller is on drums, and Marika Hughes guests on cello.
It's the sort of music that no doubt is finding good airplay on college stations. It has songs that have strength and stay in the mind. The title track most especially. Jessica, Brandon and Erik make a distinctive mark on the music instrumentally. Everyone sounds right for the pieces at hand.
You get a little mid-eastern/klezmer influence, highly transformed into something Lurie-esque. There's also some of the density of rock, and all kinds of singular instrumental combinations. And she can sing!
But is it jazz? Well, yes, at times it is unmistakably that. Other times it combines lots of influences and if you just sit back and dig the entire gestalt of what's going on you'll find that this is a very original journey--into the world of Jessica Lurie and her musical vision.