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It’s likely no surprise that the title In Solitude, the latest album from bass clarinetist Steven Lugerner’s multi-faceted group SLUGish Ensemble, references the pandemic. That said, though these seven pieces were indeed composed during lockdown, they don’t refer to four walls and a chair. Instead they were inspired by the daily walks Lugerner took around his San Francisco neighborhood, and thus capture a wider range of moods and flavors than one might find from one person and his imagination. “Portola,” for example, puts its expansive melody over a math rock-inspired rhythm, like walking through a busy neighborhood at night where all the joints are jumpin’. “La Bica” provides a similar vibe, though it feels like the morning when the day is just getting started, as everyone hurries to their daytime destinations. Less frenetic and more contemplative, “Moraga” revolves around sunshine riffs that bespeak a day in the park, peoplewatching. The brooding “No Justice, No Peace” simmers with righteous anger, while the angular “Myra” pays loving tribute to the great pianist/composer Myra Melford. Given the time during which they were written, there’s clearly an element of fantasy to most of these songs – the San Fran neighborhoods Lugerner traversed were likely empty at the time. But the writer’s ability to spin melodic gold out of leaden isolation is singularly impressive, whether or not the vibes reflect exact circumstances.
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