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A veteran sideperson for saxophonist Curtis Stigers and a professor at Western Michigan University, pianist Matthew Fries has also logged time with Steve Wilson, DeeDee Bridgewater, Vincent Herring, Dave Samuels and plenty of other jazz luminaries. For Lost Time, however, his chief inspiration was, as with so many artists in the last few years, loss. The deaths of his mother and stepfather a couple of years ago (not to Covid, amazingly), not to mention the untimely passing of Chick Corea, a chief inspiration, sparked something new in his writing, leading him to record a solo album, rather than with his regular trio Tri-Fi. Joined by bassist John Hébert and Tri-Fi drummer Keith Hall, Fries lays heavily into his sense of melody here, letting his lyrical riffs and creamy chording lead the way. The defiantly swinging “Quarantine,” the exploratory “Nine Robins,” the vibrant “Heroes” (a direct tribute to Corea) and the gorgeous “The Fog” (clearly a nod the beauty of a foggy morning, rather than the chill of John Carpenter’s eponymous horror film) show a seamless blend between technique and heart, and a sympatico connection to the rhythm section. The title track puts it all together in a gorgeous tribute to Fries’ mother that acknowledges the joy in knowing her as much as the grief in losing her. Lost Time is a masterclass in making a personal journey a universal statement.
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