Tag Archives: Luther Gray

Free Jazz review by Paul Acquaro

CF298Lawnmower – Lawnmower II (CF 298)
****
Ah, memories … I recall downloading Lawnmower’s first album, West, from eMusic at Stef’s enthusiastic recommendation. Then, I remember falling for it, becoming enthralled by the two guitars spinning ambient textures, Luthar Grey’s understated drums and Jim Hobb’s earthy saxophone. I also had the luck to catch a performance at the a sweltering Stone on a hot summer night a few years back.

Well, Lawnmower is back, sort of … the line up is revised but they have not lost their natural post-rock sense of adventure. Replacing the dual guitars of Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton is violinist Kaethe Hostetter and electric bassist Winston Bramey. Fortunately, the loss of the fabulous guitar work is deftly mitigated by Hostetter and Bramey whose mix of melodic intent and pulsating bass generates its own captivating nuances and complements the inventive work of Grey and Hobbs.

Lawnmower II opens up with ‘Good Beat’ – and it’s just that – a good beat that stretches out unhurriedly over 8 minutes. Violin and sax dance lightly around the chugging bass and drums. Hostetter offers up dark riffs and Hobbs responds in kind. The back beat on ‘Space Goat’ also chugs along unhurriedly — it’s 12 minutes of groove and mood, featuring wah-wah violin and fuzz bass with extended solos. Hobbs is in the foreground on ‘Cartoon’, where his rapidly ascending and descending lines stitches together the frenetic free playing of his companions. The aptly titled ‘Walk in the Park’ follows and provides a nice melodic bridge to the standout ‘Tiny Wing’. Digging deep into itself, the track features the violin and bass in an introverted space jam that threatens to violently implode.

Lawnmower, the band, finds its inspiration in ambient spaces and deliberate rhythms, melodic snippets and extended probing passages. Though a new model for 2014, Lawnmower is a different machine but still comes highly recommended.

http://www.freejazzblog.org/2015/01/lawnmower-lawnmower-ii-clean-feed-2014.html

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Time Out review by José Carlos Fernandes

CF298Lawnmower – II (CF 298)
****
Entre o 1º e o 2º discos do projecto Lawnmower, do baterista Luther Gray, há diferenças de monta, com as duas guitarras de Farina e Littleton a darem lugar ao violino de Kaethe Hostetter e ao baixo eléctrico de Winston Braman (só o sax de Jim Hobbs se mantém) e a sonoridade e arquitectura foram radicalmente alteradas, de que resulta o opus 2 ser mais sedutor do que o antecessor. O que não quer dizer que se tenham feito quaisquer concessões: basta ouvir a fúria do sax e do violino no extremo agudo em “Tiny Wings” (a evocar uns Sonic Youth em desvario psicadélico), ou o imperturbável tribalismo minimal de “Good Beat” (entre Joy Division e Can), sobre o qual sax e violino tecem curiosos diálogos. Não é música para se ouvir enquanto se jardina.

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

CF 298Lawnmower II – II (CF 298)
Lawnmower II no es únicamente el título del CD, sino también de la formación. En la segunda encarnación de Lawnmower participan nuevamente el baterista Luther Gray (su líder) y el saxofonista alto Jim Hobbs, a los que se añaden el bajista Winston Braman y la violinista (con un instrumento de cinco cuerdas) Kaethe Hostetter. La suya es una mirada hacia el free en sus múltiples facetas: la espiritualidad de Coltrane, las influencia orientales, la inmediatez de Ayler, y la libertad total, sin dejar de reconocer la influencia del blues o el placer de solear mientras tus compañeros tejen un ritmo muy marcado y potentemente adictivo.

http://www.tomajazz.com/web/?p=13169

Burning Ambulance review by Phil Freeman

CF 298Lawnmower – Lawnmower II (CF 298)
It’s always interesting when a band undergoes a major metamorphosis between albums, yet retains its name. Drummer Luther Gray has been a part of at least two such bands. He plays for guitarist/bassist Joe Morris‘s Wildlife, which started as a trio (Morris, Gray, and tenor saxophonist Petr Cancura) on its 2009 self-titled debut, but added alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs to the lineup on its second release, 2011′s Traits. And he’s the leader of Lawnmower, which on its 2010 debut West (reviewed here) found Gray and Hobbs teaming up with guitarists Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton for an album that blurred the boundaries theoretically separating blues, noise-rock, and free jazz. (Note: Farina, Gray and Littleton recorded an album as New Salt in 2005.)

Well, four years later, the second Lawnmower album is here, and Lawnmower II is a very apt title, as this is a very different album from its predecessor. Gray and Hobbs remain, but both guitarists are gone, replaced by violinist Kaethe Hostetter and electric bassist Winston Braman. The result is a set of jammy, slow-burning pieces that drift away from the at times fierce abstraction of West in favor of trancelike extrapolations of relatively simple melodic ideas.

Things start off fairly upbeat, with “Good Beat,” a loping groove driven by sharp, almost Tony Conrad-with-Faust-ish juxtapositions of violin over throbbing, one-chord bass and tribal-ish drumming. Around the three-minute mark, Hostetter’s violin begins to drift in a cloud of reverb, as Hobbs’ saxophone squeaks like a door. “Jumping Off the Bridge,” the second track, is the most conventionally “jazzy” piece here, Hobbs spinning out thoughtful, subdued melodies as his bandmates drift in an abstract blues zone. “Space Goat,” the longest piece on the album at over 12 minutes, is also the weirdest. Hobbs is relatively restrained, never erupting into free/avant squawking, while Hostetter plays aggressively, through a wah-wah pedal, and Braman’s bass is huge and dubby; at one point, he cuts loose with a fuzzbox and starts to sound like Andrew Weiss of the Rollins Band. The violin work makes the whole piece reminiscent of, of all things, Edie Brickell and New Bohemians‘ “What I Am.” Behind them all, Gray thwacks out a steady snare rhythm—this track, out of everything on Lawnmower II, would be the most likely to appeal to jam-band fans rather than jazz listeners. “Cartoon,” a two-minute eruption, juxtaposes sawing, post-Ornette Coleman violin against whinnying saxophone, as Braman’s fuzzed-out bass and Gray’s avalanche drumming surge and recede below. “Walk in the Park,” a ballad of sorts, showcases Hobbs’ ruminative alto (the first three minutes of the piece are basically a long saxophone solo) as much as his ability to create keening harmonies with Hostetter. On the nearly nine-minute “Tiny Wings,” though, their interaction is less about harmony and more about engaging in some kind of squealing contest, her violin zooming like a theremin as he loops and dives through the horn’s upper register; meanwhile, Gray dances on the cymbals and Braman strums the bass in a range somewhere between Bill Laswell in Last Exit and Jane’s Addiction‘s Eric Avery. The final track, “Ashed,” begins with two minutes of long tones from violin and saxophone, the bass and cymbals only gradually emerging behind them; eventually, it all morphs into a slow-walking blues, taking the album out on a soft, brooding note.

Lawnmower‘s resistance to easy definition makes them one of the more exciting groups around. It’ll be interesting to see what form they take on album #3.
http://burningambulance.com/2014/06/18/lawnmower/

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

CF 298Lawnmower – Lawnmower II (CF 298)
Drummer Luther Gray described in the liner notes to West, Lawnmower’s 2010 Clean Feed debut, that the record was an attempt to reconcile the various genres he’d worked in throughout his career—an all-inclusive approach that could be traced back to the stylistically diverse music he listened to on a Walkman while mowing lawns in his youth. Lawnmower II, the quartet’s sophomore effort, reinforces Gray’s initial inspiration, conjuring aural impressions of the lazy, hazy days of summer.

The new album features some surprising personnel changes; Gray and expressive alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs remain as the sole original members, whose shared experiences include working with Taylor Ho Bynum, Joe Morris and Timo Shanko. The indie rock-pedigreed guitarists Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton have been replaced however, by classically-trained violinist Kaethe Hostetter and pop-savvy electric bassist Winston Braman, who reveal a nuanced, collaborative rapport.

Like West, which traversed the panoramic expanses of Americana, this session exudes a similarly cohesive ambience. Assertive detours, like “Cartoon” and “Tiny Wings,” are exceptions, although even the latter’s skittering rhythms are offset by languid glissandos from Hobbs and Hostetter. The program’s prevailing mood is one of probing, groove-laden introspection; “Good Beat” channels mid-tempo Afrobeat, while “Walk In The Park” subtly references a strolling blues, but it’s the twelve minute “Space Goat” that best illustrates the date’s charms. Anchored by a hypnotic ostinato and Gray’s loping backbeat, Hostetter’s wah-wah laced violin weaves psychedelic variations in harmony with Hobbs’ vocalized alto refrains, while Braman’s fuzz-toned bass provides an electrifying undercurrent.

Despite the change in lineup, the group continues to evince the same sort of rich conversational interplay that defined the ensemble’s first album, imbuing Lawnmower II with an adventurous sensibility that transcends the limitations of genre or style.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/lawnmower-ii-luther-gray-clean-feed-records-review-by-troy-collins.php#.U4OADnJdUuc

JazzWord review by Ken Waxman

Lawnmower – West (CF 178)
Architecturally organized into sound blocks, the seven tracks on this quartet`s debut CD bleed one into another to create a distinct aural picture. Mostly mid-tempo and somewhat monochromic, the pieces seem to take as much from shoe-gazer rock and poignant country music as jazz improvisation.

That’s not surprising, considering that two of players – guitarists Dan Littleton and Geoff Farina – are part of indie-rock bands such as Ida, Karate and Secret Stars. Drummer Luther Gray is a former punk-rocker who now plays with improv stylist such as saxophonist Ken Vandermark and guitarist Joe Morris. Leader of the Fully Celebrated Orchestra, alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, having worked with trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum among others, is the jazz spark here.

On ballads such as “Prayer of Death” and “Love”, the guitarists churn out Appalachian-styled twangs and tremolo slides as the saxophonist’s melismatic whines and choked slurs approximate the lonesome timbres of primitivist singers. When his tone isn’t reminiscent of Dock Boggs’ vocals, Hobbs channels Ornette Coleman. On a piece such as “Giant Squid” Hobbs’ creates jaunty, linear solos whose child-like intonation contrast with the guitarists’ crunching reverb and discordant fuzz tones Littleton and Farina only fleetingly differentiate themselves throughout when one vibrates steel-guitar-like licks and the other gashes his strings, producing abrasive rebounds. Meanwhile Gray’s presence is strictly supportive, sticking to bare-bone paradiddles and uncomplicated clatters and rolls.

Even on “Two”, West’s lengthiest track at almost 14¾ minutes, the pause between sections is no drum break, but an opportunity for methodical clunks and rustling raps from Gray. Half-lullaby and half-lament, resonating guitar drones at the top develop into fortissimo string shakes and blurry note sprays by the end, with Hobbs’ pinched reed bites and split tones providing the contrast.

Gray says the band name came from his youth mowing lawns while listening to music through a walkman. As imposing as some of the tracks are, the CD’s underlying melancholy may discourage an identical strategy here: a severed toe may result.
http://www.jazzword.com/review/127450

The New York City Jazz Record review by Ken Waxman

Lawnmower – West (CF 178 )
Architecturally organized into sound blocks, the seven tracks on this quartet’s debut CD bleed one into another to create a distinct aural picture. Mostly midtempo and somewhat monochromatic, the pieces seem to take as much from shoe-gazer rock and poignant country music as jazz improvisation. That’s not surprising considering that two of players – guitarists Dan Littleton and Geoff Farina – are part of indie-rock bands such as Ida, Karate and Secret Stars. Drummer Luther Gray is a former punk rocker who now plays with improv stylists such as saxophonist Ken Vandermark and guitarist Joe Morris. Leader of the Fully Celebrated Orchestra, alto saxophonist JimHobbs is the jazz spark here. On ballads such as “Prayer of Death” and “Love”, the guitarists churn out Appalachian-styled twang sand tremolo slides as the saxophonist’s melismatic whines and choked slurs approximate the lonesome timbres of primitivist singers. When his tone isn’t reminiscent of Dock Boggs’ vocals, Hobbs channels Ornette Coleman. On a piece such as “Giant Squid” Hobbs creates jaunty, linear solos whose child-like intonation contrast with the guitarists’ crunching reverb and discordant fuzz tones. Littleton and Farina only fleetingly differentiate themselves throughout when one vibrates steel-guitar-like licks and the other gashes his strings, producing abrasive rebounds. Meanwhile Gray’s presence is strictly supportive, sticking to bare-bone paradiddles and uncomplicated clatters and rolls. Even on “Two”, the lengthiest track at almost 15 minutes, the pause between sections is no drum break, but an opportunity for methodical clunks and rustling raps from Gray. Half-lullaby and half-lament, resonating guitar drones at the top develop into fortissimo string shakes and blurry note sprays by the end, with Hobbs’ pinched reed bites and split tones providing the contrast. Gray says the band name came from his youth, mowing lawns while listening to music through a walkman. As imposing as some of the tracks are, the album’s underlying melancholy may discourage an identical strategy here: a severed toe may result.