A poetic phrase on the back cover by Iman Annab puts us in mind of a thematic view: "Against all odds the rose will continue to climb." And perhaps that's a kind of parable for all of us? That life now perhaps as ever but maybe never so much as now--that life requires us to continue against all odds? I suspect so.
The music comes to us in the form of a ready-to-hand quartet of Lena on tenor. Russ Lossing on piano, Cameron Brown on bass and Billy Mintz on drums. The band and compositions by Lena and Russ call to mind in some ways the old Jarrett Quartet with Redman, Haden and Motian, in its lyrical and dramatic sprawl, except perhaps a bit more of a Mideastern flavor in the minor tinge of it at key points. And too each player and the group as a whole remains beyond that Jarrett precursor, remains steadfastly original in good ways.
It is music played with a loose freedom that nonetheless is grounded in each composition and retains the general form of the song/changes/tonality. The improvisations are seamless with the compositional parts so it all flows together--and it that way is a group showcase more so than a sort of solo centered approach. Bloch and Lossing acquit themselves nicely in the ad lib aspects nonetheless and the rhythm team swings with a looseness that is modern and appealing.
The mix of cogent composition and ear opening expressive looseness and improvisation is very appealing and substantial. It is a happy album to hear repeatedly and reminds us that Lena has artistry in reserve. Bravo! Recommended highly if you are in a Modern Avant Jazz mindset.