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4-Star Review in Downbeat Magazine and

Downbeat Best Recordings of 2022

Daniel Margolis August 2022

The concept behind the Endeavour Jazz Orchestra New Zealand is laudable. The ensemble was created primarily to feature the best young jazz composers in New Zealand, and it features many of the island nation’s best jazz musicians playing alongside some of the world’s top jazz artists — Alex Sipiagin on trumpet, Dick Oatts on alto saxophone, Francisco Torres on trombone, John Escreet on piano and John RIley on drums.

Normally that’d be enough plot line for an hour of exceptional jazz. But the Endeavour Jazz Orchestra New Zealand’s first project has another angle. Solipsis — Music Of Ryan Brake bills itself as inspired by elements of the critically acclaimed 2008 film Synedoche, New York. The 14-year-old movie stars the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as a theater director staging an increasingly elaborate production with no real sense of time; its development twists on for years. The titles of the six movements of Solipsis reference things said or seen in the film. The first is a big one, “Somewhere Between Stasis And Anti-stasis,” which sums up the unreality of the film overall. The more than 20 musicians (the majority of them horn players) on hand in the orchestra start the proceedings with a cheerful chorus and then start walking around with the arrangement before showcasing a beautiful yet dizzying solo from Escreet, who’s consistently on fire throughout the album.

“Sycosis And Psychosis” refers to a scene in the movie in which Hoffman’s character Caden Cotard explains to a child the difference between the two — one is a skin condition; the other a troubled mental state — as it’s clear while he acknowledges he has the former, he also has the latter. On the track here, the orchestra stages a slower number with Escreet and guitarist Nick Granville thoughtfully mirroring each other, then members of the ample horn section do the same before seizing the composition’s line to twist it around for a while, and then hand it back to the guitarist and pianist. The song then takes a time-out for a languid guitar solo and another notably complex, expressive piano solo. For all the talent enlisted here, Escreet and Granville may be the project’s true stars.

“Infectious Diseases In Cattle,” a phrase Cotard considers as the title of his play at one point, starts in a hurry and then cuts the tempo ever so slightly to give the horn players some room. “The Burning House,” a visual element repeated throughout Synedoche, New York, highlights Brake’s skills with composition, particularly arrangement, before coming to an abrupt halt (he seems to like ending a song that way).

“Simulcrum,” another title Cotard considers, is a slower, moodier number that builds in drama and boasts some of the best horn solos here, especially from trombonist Francisco Torres.

The album’s closer, “Lighting An Obscure World,” yet another title Cotard considers, wastes no time in bringing together all the musicians on hand for a full-ensemble jam. Over the course of the 12-minute track, the players try virtually everything, even exploring a Latin feel before allowing space for an unaccompanied piano solo. This is the Endeavour Jazz Orchestra New Zealand’s inaugural release. Let’s hope more are on the way.




Leonardo Coghini - A Brave Path

Jazz Local 32 - John Fenton

As New Zealand adjusted to the first easing of the pandemic restrictions, Leo Coghini, a young Wellington musician released a set of three improvised solo piano albums. They were recorded at studio 310, New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University and all on a single day. The albums titled ’Wellington Solos’ were released on the SkyDeck label and an immediate drawcard was the gorgeous brooding cover art. When a package looks that good, there is the lure of promise, and in that spirit, I sat down, closed my eyes and played all three.

As I listened through, it became obvious that these albums were something unique. Only the bravest of improvisers record abstract solo piano albums and those who do so are generally seasoned musicians with established avant-garde credentials. Coghini is modest, perhaps even shy, but what confidence he mustered on that day in November, and how astonishing the result. 

As I evaluated the material it was impossible not to bring Jarretts 70’s explorations to mind; the joyful free improvisation built on delicate motifs, the way the tunes begin; unwind, are reconstructed and concluded. When you consider that this is Coghini’s first recording in his own name and that he is still an undergraduate, it is all the more impressive. You can feel his absorption, but he fully engages. This not a musician abstracting for mere abstraction’s sake; here there is clarity of purpose and the images he conjures are accessible to the listener.

In a project like this, the nakedness of the piano is exposed and a recording must capture the pivot between instrument and artist. It should achieve that without the hand of the recording technicians being discernible. This recording achieved that to perfection. The right piano in the right hands when recorded properly sings.  

I first encountered Coghini in 2017 at an emerging artists gig. On that occasion, his band played standards and I noticed his gentle swing feel. Later I heard him in a different context, as a sideman on the award-winning ‘Fearless Music’ album by Umar Zakaria. By then a confident and adventurous Coghini had emerged and after this latest offering, we can be certain that he will continue to impress.


*2018 New Zealand Jazz Album of the Year

Jazz Local 32 - John Fenton

December 17, 2018

I was out of the country when Umar Zakaria came to the Backbeat Bar in September. I was particularly sorry to have missed Zakaria’s Fearless Music Tour as they had just won the 2018 Jazz Album Of The Year. Because I was away it took me a while to get my hands on the album and when I did I was deeply impressed.  While the name Zakaria may be unfamiliar to many outside of Wellington, he is hardly a newcomer to the scene. He is a graduate from the New Zealand School of Music and the Boston Conservatory and he has performed and studied with significant improvisers from around the globe. Already, accolades are coming his way and when you consider the fact that he is at the beginning of his career, you comprehend just how significant that is.

Fearless Music is a beautiful album in so many ways; the artwork, recording quality, compositions, and individual performances. An increasing number of highly regarded jazz recordings come from outside of the US and this must surely count among them.  It frequently draws on motifs and themes from outside of the European or American world and perhaps that is the secret to its authenticity. There are no awkward attempts to blend styles here as everything falls naturally; the music is deeply rhythmic and recognisably jazz in spite of the obvious Middle Eastern or Asian influences and scales. ‘Suite Melayu’, the bulk of this recording is the gem within. it sticks with you. There is undoubtedly a good story behind the suite segment titles but there are no liner notes, the music, however, is more than enough. Suite Melayu felt like the sort of material that the brilliant Dhafer Yousef might write.

The tune ‘Archimedes’ has a deeply contemplative quality to it. Archimedes was a polymath who lived in Siracusa Sicily and he is a hero of mine. This feels like a fitting tribute to the greatest physicist, engineer, mathematician, astronomer, and inventor of the ancient world. There is a subtle Mediterranean feel to this track and if like me you’ve travelled around that ancient Island you will pick up the Moorish vibe right away. -especially in Leonardo Coghini’s lines. Zakaria is a gifted bass player but his compositions, in particular, mark this out as an exceptional album. He deserved to win the Jazz Tui with this project and I look forward to the sequels which must surely follow.

His fellow musicians are also exceptional here. Coghini I have heard before and after this performance, I will pay him much closer attention. His touch is so clean and purposeful, but also delicate. His lines breathe as good lines should.  The drummer Luther Hunt, has been around on the wider Wellington music scene for some years and more recently he studied Jazz Performance at the New Zealand School of Music. Again, an exceptionally sensitive performance, knowing when to lay out and when to be supportive. Lastly, there is Roger Manins. I hear him in so many diverse situations and in every one of them, he sounds as if that is his thing. This excellence in versatility is the mark of a really good musician. At his best, which is almost all of the time, there is no one in New Zealand to touch him. What he brings to performances like this is professionalism with heart. We are lucky to have him in our midst.

Auckland got a chance to see Zakaria again when he came to Auckland recently in a co-led trio. the Kang/Lockett/Zakaria trio.  Of these, drummer Mark Lockett is the best known as he has appeared at the CJC numerous times and is a popular performer. He also runs the WJC in Wellington. Brad Kang, a formidable technician on guitar did a gig earlier in the year. The writing duties had been spread between the three musicians and many of the numbers were hard-hitting burners, especially in Kang’s hands.

Fearless Music: Umar Zakaria (bass, composition), Roger Manins (tenor saxophone), Leonardo Coghini (piano), Luther Hunt (drums) – Recorded and mixed and produced by David Lisik at New Zealand School of Music, SkyDeck Records.

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Brian Charente  |  June 2018

Russian trumpeter Alex Sipiagin’s new recording features, music written by Canadian Dr. David Lisik inspired by Albert Einsteins Theory of Relativity. Alto saxophonist Will Vinson plays very sweetly, breaking up his high-minded modern harmony with just a hint of Bird and even a bar-walking shout here and there while tenor saxophonist Chris Potter plays gorgeous phrases he quadruple times effortlessly while droping mind-boggling false-fingered tenor tricks. The opening title track starts with a legato fugue in the horns, slowly developing the main theme. Piano and bass answer in unison as the horns take a breath. The meandering horns come together in a powerful unison at the bridge as one reed defects to the rhythm section for a twisty countermelody with triplet hits and quartal harmony. Electronics played by Lisik slyly flirt with the piano of John Escreet, almost suggesting cosmic movement deep in space. On “Space and Time,” a pretty melody sung by Alina Engibaryan is doubled by saxophones while Sipiagin riffs looping chromatic phrases, clipped low notes Sipiagin riffs looping chromatic phrases, clipped low notes a la Miles Davis and even a quote of countryman Igor Stravinsky.


Escreet can hit a blazing arpeggio, break into two-fisted bebop lines and even make the piano sound like sleigh bells, all while continuing a thread of motivic development. On “Clocks in Motion,” he starts digging in as Sipiagin’s solo builds. Eric Harland’s drums stir at the instigation of Boris Kozlov’s relentlessly buoyant bass as the pianist continues with a Brazilian comping pattern that turns into pedaled McCoy Tyner-inspired voicings for Potter’s solo. Listen to Harland’s unusual take on drum and bass grooves on “Addition of Velocity.” In a great duet with Vinson, the pair go in and out of afro triplets then back to jazz swing. At 2:49 Vinson hits a great multiphonic upon which the hungry band pounces. The camaraderie of the band is palpable.


Relativity is advanced music delivered with joy and a wink. The ensemble writing is artful without being ostentatious and the solos are spacious and memorable. Einstein would approve. For more information visit This project is at Dizzy's club June 5th.

Nov 15 2017


Dave Lisik's strong compositions provide a great canvas for some incredible solos by this dream-team sextet

This album was released under trumpeter Alex Sipiagin's name, however the album features a suite of compositions by Dave Lisik and was released on his Skydeck label. Entitled "Relativity" the suite was inspired by the famous Einstein theory and features almost the exact band that appeared on Sipiagin's 2017 Criss Cross release, "Moment's Captured." Besides Sipiagin, the lineup includes alto saxophonist Will Vinson, tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist John Escreet, bassist Boris Kozlov, and drummer Eric Harland, along with a few guest appearances from vocalist Alina Engibaryan.

The suite begins with its title track, which also happens to be one of the best on the record. The composition is densely polyphonic, but also well-crafted and smartly phrased and leads into intensely dramatic solos by Sipiagin, Escreet, and Potter, that move gradually into more free territory. Not only is Escreet a an excellent soloist who stands out even among such company, but his dynamic and interactive comping during the horn solos is also noteworthy. Potter's solo on the first track leads directly into the second, which stands out with some nice free improv that eventually coagulates smoothly into the composition. "Addition of Velocity" and "Spacetime" are other standout compositions, both using tightly-structured polyphony to great effect and delving further into free jazz territory.

Many of the other compositions tend to favor heavy, dramatic unison lines that almost give the sextet the sound of a big band. Lisik's engaging melodies often hold up well to the unison treatment, though his polyphonic writing gives the other pieces a slight edge. The closest thing to a ballad on the album is "Space and Time," in which Engibaryan adds vocals to a rather slow unison horn line. The piece is probably the weakest on the album anyway, but then ends with some rather ponderous and dated-sounding synth effects from Escreet. "Unbounded" sticks to the unison melodic approach (wit added vocals) compositionally, but closes the album on a high note with more fantastic solos. Potter starts out with a strong statement (don't miss his clever "Star Wars" quote and the ensuing development of the theme) but Sipiagin follows up with an equally strong statement and then Vinson also gives a great solo that might even rival Potter's.

As a composer, Lisik obviously borrows a lot from the players he chose to record this music. The knotty polyphony and complex forms seem to come from Sipiagin's compositional language, while the heavy and energetic unison lines accompanied by a strong rhythmic drive seems closer to Potter's style. The compositions are all quite strong for the most part and pave the way for solos that are generally fantastic. Though the soloists get the spotlight, the strengthy of the rhythm section cannot be overstated and they stay flexible and highly interactive, throughout any excursion by the soloists. It's a great album and Lisik obviously chose the perfect players to execute his impressive compositions.



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Scott Yanow  |  November 25, 2017

Bonnie And Clyde, a set of original music inspired by ten unique pairs of characters, is the latest accomplishment in the very productive and creative career of arranger-composer-trumpeter Dave Lisik. A Canadian who taught high school in Winnipeg, Canada and college in Memphis, Tennessee, Lisik has been a resident of Wellington, New Zealand since 2010 where he teaches at the New Zealand School of Music and has been a very active part of the jazz and creative music scene.

While Lisik has written for many larger ensembles, symphony orchestras and his own quintet in his career (with over 450 compositions), Bonnie and Clyde features the duo of trumpeter Alex Sipiagin and pianist Dave Kikoski interpreting his music. Sipiagin, along with Bob Sheppard, had been the principal soloist on Lisik’s 2011 jazz orchestra record Walkabout – A Place For Visions. In 2014, Lisik’s quintet recording Machaut Man and a Superman Hat featured Sipiagin and tenor-saxophonist Donny McCaslin along with the rhythm section of the Mingus Big Band which included Dave Kikoski.
“Alex and Dave are both incredible players, technical masters and artists on a really high level,” says Dave Lisik. “As a trumpet player I have a particular appreciation for Alex's ability on the instrument but his inventiveness really stands out for me, even when compared to some of the other top trumpeters playing today. Music just flows out of both of these guys. Alex was in New Zealand for the national jazz workshops in January 2016 and he was already planning some duo gigs with Dave Kikoski. Rather than just writing random tunes for them, it seemed more interesting, given the two-player format, to create a collection of new tunes based on famous pairs from history.”

The adventurous music on Bonnie and Clyde was a challenge for the two players but they quickly came up with fresh and inventive ideas that perfectly fit the pieces. “A few of the tunes start with chord progressions like standards, others are more modern harmonically, and a few are based on ostinatos with melodies and no harmonic progression. It is easy to worry about there not being enough variety with only two instruments but then, as always happens with players at this level, they took the music to places that I had not imagined. The improvisations and interplay are so interesting that it is fun for me to hear what they did with my pieces.” 

Bonnie and Clyde begins with “Kourke ‘N Spock,” named after Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock from Star Trek. “The odd spelling of Kourke is a nod to the way that Alex, with his Russian accent, pronounces Kirk. It’s identical to how the Russian Star Trek character Pavel Chekov said it, which I found humorous.” The wide intervals played by Sipiagin somehow sounds effortless and relaxed, giving this piece a futuristic feel.

“Samneric,” the twin boys Sam and Eric from Lord Of The Flies who were so close that they melded into one character. This dramatic performance has Alex Sipiagin and Dave Kikoski engaging in dramatic interplay as they play off of each other’s ideas throughout the piece.

“Antony and Cleopatra,” historic figures who were immortalized by Shakespeare, are musically portrayed by Sipiagin (who hints at the melancholy of Miles Davis on this piece even during his faster runs) and Kikoski, who takes an extended solo filled with twists and turns. 

“Porgy and Bess,” the lead characters in George Gershwin’s famed folk opera, are saluted in a thoughtful piece that is a bit nostalgic.

“Henson and Oz” celebrates the creative partnership of Jim Henson and Frank Oz who together created Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy and Ernie and Bert. This high energy romp has Sipiagin and Kikoski engaging in playful moments and fiery stretches that jump around with the energy of a children’s television show. About this track Lisik says, “Jim Henson and Frank Oz were one of the most important modern comedy duos. Henson passed unexpectedly in 1990 and Frank Oz eulogizing Jim Henson at his memorial service is one of the most touching moments I’ve seen and a wonderful tribute to the relationship between these two men.

“Bonnie and Clyde” is for the Depression era criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow who were depicted in a colorful movie of the same name. Lisik’s music is worthy of a memorable chase scene.

“Arwen and Aragorn” is dedicated to two characters from the Lord Of The Rings, a saga that is particularly popular in New Zealand where the films were shot. The particularly lovely chord progression of this romantic jazz waltz is borrowed from “Fairy Tale” by Bob Washut, Lisik’s former teacher at the University of Northern Iowa. 

The cat and mouse interplay throughout “Holmes and Watson” is perfect for a tribute to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The whimsical yet mysterious piece conjures up the image of a Sherlock Holmes tale.

“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern” are Shakespearean characters from Hamlet. On this performance and briefly elsewhere, Dave Kikoski is heard on Fender Rhodes, sometimes playing electric and acoustic pianos together with one hand on each. The unisons and general theme on this original are quirky, witty and difficult to predict.

Bonnie and Clyde concludes with “Fred And Ginger,” a warm ballad dedicated to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Too much praise cannot be given to the two musicians who interact spontaneously throughout the ten pieces with the same confidence and relaxed creativity that they would have displayed if they had been stretching out on much more familiar standards. 

Dave Lisik became involved in music early in his life. After playing organ for five years, he switched to trumpet in sixth grade, performing regularly in his school bands. “Both of my junior high and high school band directors were trumpet players so I'm sure that helped me.” Lisik developed quickly and, while still in high school, he performed for two years in the big band at the University of Manitoba. Always interested in writing, he experimented with electroacoustic music while in high school and mostly wrote classical music while in college, but gained experience writing jazz before and during his doctoral study at the University of Memphis. “I wrote for the guest artists who came to the school including Marvin Stamm, Bill Mays, Luis Bonilla, Paul Hanson, Carl Allen, and Kirk Whalum. Once my dissertation was finished, Luis was particularly encouraging and helpful in getting players to record my first big band CD.” Among those jazz composers and arrangers whose music inspired him early on were Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely, Maria Schneider and Thad Jones.

In addition to teaching at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington, Lisik co-directs the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra, founded and produces the NZSM Jazz Festival, and is a trustee of the New Zealand Jazz Foundation. During the past year he has co-written with Eric Allen the book 50 Years at the Village Vanguard: Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. He has also recorded many inventive CDs of his music with several new projects scheduled to be coming out in the near future.

For the future, Dave Lisik says, “I hope to keep writing music for inspiring performers, both in classical music and jazz. I want there always to be some urgency to evolve and keep getting better rather than having my projects be too similar.” Bonnie and Clyde, which is unlike any of Dave Lisik’s previous recordings, succeeds at being fresh, new and full of inventive music.

Scott Yanow, jazz author/historian and author of 11 books including Trumpet Kings and Jazz On Record 1917-76.




By Downbeat Magazine

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Memphis musician-educator channels jazz pioneer for new CD


Bob Mehr  |  January 28, 2010

At 35 years old, Dave Lisik is a relatively young man, but he's "composing" history all the same. The trumpeter and music educator has been an active presence on the Bluff City jazz scene since arriving in town in 2003, as a longtime member of the Memphis Jazz Orchestra and leader of his own Dave Lisik Quintet. Last week, Lisik released an ambitious new CD under his Dave Lisik Orchestra

banner. It's a conceptual affair called Coming Through Slaughter: The Bolden Legend, and for Lisik the disc represents the culmination a five-year creative journey and the end of his time in Memphis.


A Winnipeg, Canada, native, the well-traveled Lisik attended University of Mary in North Dakota and got his master's degree at the University of Northern lowa. After teaching high school jazz band back in Canada for five years, he decided to attend the University of Memphis to finish his doctorate. "The culmination of that process is the dissertation. And as a composition major with a jazz emphasis, it meant that I needed a project that was new in some sort of sense," says Lisik. "It had to be an original composition. And I thought it'd be more interesting to find a concept, something that could be the inspiration for a piece."

Lisik found that inspiration in a gift he'd been given upon leaving Canada, a copy of Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter, a fictionalized history about the legendary, almost mythical New Orleans jazz pioneer, Buddy Bolden. A turn-of-the-century Crescent City bandleader, Charles "Buddy" Bolden was one of the avatars of a brand of improvised music that would become known as jazz. Before he could be widely recognized or even recorded, Bolden's mental health deteriorated, and he was committed to an institution in 1907 where he eventually died. Although rumors of Bolden sessions have circulated, none of his recorded work has ever been discovered. Out of this mystery and vacuum, Lisik saw an opportunity to create something compelling.

"Buddy Bolden was the only jazz musician in history who doesn't have his own soundtrack, per se. And so if you think about doing an original project about Charlie Parker or Dizzy Gillespie or John Coltrane, or any other musician, it's almost like making the Mozart "Amadeus" movie but hiring John Williams to write the soundtrack," says Lisik, laughing. "You're not going to compose new music for a Mozart movie or a Beethoven movie. But the situation with Bolden allowed me to be freer and write a modern piece without trampling over any existing music," he adds. "I was able to be more abstract."

Lisik soon began writing a concept piece about Bolden, largely inspired by the Ondaatje book. It was successful enough that it helped him earn his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 2006. Lisik then began teaching at LeMoyne-Owen College, and decided to bring the composition to life. He completed writing a full 10-movement Bolden piece, and set himself up with a mobile studio and began recording at various locations in Memphis, Indiana and New York. The project drew sufficient interest in jazz circles that Lisik was able to secure the services of a who's who of musicians, such as New York drummer Matt Wilson, horn heavyweights including trombonist Luis Bonilla, sax man Donny McCaslin, and featured trumpeter Tim Hagans, a respected hard bop blower and veteran of Stan Kenton and Woody Herman's bands. "When I was writing the piece, I was actually imagining Tim Hagans playing it. But the idea that I could actually get him to record it didn't seem a reality at that point. In the end, I was lucky enough to get him and a number of other great players.

This past week - five years after he first hatched the idea - Lisik put out Coming Through Slaughter on his own Galloping Cow Music label. But the disc's release also closes Lisik's career in Memphis. In a few weeks, Lisik will head down under to begin

a new job teaching at the New Zealand School of Music. "I'm excited about the opportunity," says Lisik. "It's about as far away from Memphis as you can get and still be in the English-speaking Western world, so it wil be different, but l'm looking forward to it."

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Jack Bowers - All About

April 5, 2010

The springboard for this ambitious debut album by Canadian composer Dave Lisik is Michael Ondaatje's novel Coming Through Slaughter, based on the life of the legendary New Orleans cornetist and bon vivant Charles "Buddy" Bolden. Using a modern approach, Lisik strives to renovate musically the threadbare tapestry of a bygone era in which Bolden is purported to have conceived the art form we know as jazz.

How does he fare? Quite well, actually. As with any thematic music, meaning is in the ear of the beholder, especially true when the source is nebulous, as it is in this case. However, using a twenty-five piece big band as his palette, Lisik manages to paint a credible albeit contemporary portrait of Bolden's life and times, his connection to the archaic origins of jazz, and his gradual descent into madness (Bolden spent the last twenty-four years of his life in mental hospital). In doing so, Lisik leans heavily on the talents of trumpeter Tim Hagans, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, trombonist Luis Bonilla, and pianist Amy Rempel as paramount soloists, and on drummer Matt Wilson as the rhythm section's unyielding glue.

The song titles as well are meant to be suggestive, with each track save one based on a brief passage from Ondaatje's book. The exception is "Whistling in the Way of Bolden," whose random dissonance and contrapuntal escalation are designed to exemplify the phrase "ecstasy before death" (or "ecstacy," as it appears thrice in the booklet). As the album advances, the discord becomes more frequent and pronounced, as in the well-named "Horror of Noise," "Suicide of the Hands" or "Parade." While this may prove displeasing to some, it is in keeping with the album's purpose, which is to chronicle Bolden's slide into dementia. Besides Hagans, the soloists on "Noise" include tenors Art Edmaiston and Dustin Laurenzi and baritone Tom Link, who do so simultaneously in the best tradition of unfettered jazz, as do Hagans, Bonilla and McCaslin on "Suicide." Bolden's depressing odyssey comes to an end in the two-part "Parade," in which the polarizing voices in his head cause him to stop playing in the middle of a parade and simply walk away, never to return. The song ends with an appropriate fade-out by pianist Rempel. The cheerless epilogue, "Bleach Out to Grey,

is centered on the single known photograph of Bolden, whose negative (in Ondaatje's novel) is dissolved by the photographer in an acid bath.

Lisik deserves commendation for undertaking such a daunting enterprise, which he first envisioned as a doctoral dissertation in Canada (he has since moved to New Zealand to join the faculty at the New Zealand School of Music). Although one can't know how someone else would have handled the task, Lisik has completed it with flying colors - thanks in part to splendid support from Hagans, McCaslin, Bonilla, Wilson and the ensemble. It must be noted that the album won't suit everyone's taste; it is more cerebral than candid, and its jagged edges can stun the senses and fray the nerves. But Lisik is telling a story, parts of which are ambivalent musically, as they were in life. Weighed on its own terms, Coming Through Slaughter is a well-drawn and admirable work of art.




Glen Hall  |  February,  2010

Inspired by Michael Ondaatje's novel of the same name, Coming Through Slaughter is a ten-movement, radical re-imagining of legendary New Orleans Cornetist Buddy Bolden's sound and music. Forget any trad jazz simulacra, this is wholly modern big band music populated with serious ringers like trumpeter Tim Hagans, tenor saxist Donny McCaslin and drummer Matt Wilson, who play their brains out on the eponymous opener. This recording should open a lot of people's ears to Lisik's impeccably crafted compositions and arrangements. Evocative orchestral settings like "The Drawings of Audubon" and "Cricket Noises and Cricket Music" inspire Hagans, McCaslin and pianist Amy Rempel - a CD standout - to speak more with expressiveness than technical ability, always a good thing when musicians with their virtuosity are involved. Trombonist Luis Bonilla and percussionist Joe Galvin make strong statements on "Auditorium of Enemies," another intriguing composition by Lisik. On Coming Through Slaughter, flawless musicianship finds itself engaged with challenging material. 

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