San Diego tenor saxophonist Ian Tordella has always impressed me as much with his pen as with his horn, and his latest release "The Lost Weekend" represents modern jazz at its most creative with superlative writing and arrangements and a smoking-hot ensemble featuring Rob Thosen's bass, Jeff Miles's guitar, and Charles Weller's drums.
Right off the bat, the opening “Anna Street,” pulses with the muscular bass of Thorsen, the attractive Rhodes-piano of guest Ed Kornhauser and the lean, smart tenor of the composer. The wildcard that makes this album leap out of the speakers is the input of guitarist Miles, who drives the freebop head of “Staten Island,” with explosive joy and audacity -- reminding me of a merger between Mary Halvorson and Bill Frisell, perhaps.
There’s a really tough, brawny Thorsen solo on “Sir Edward’s Lament,” where Miles pushes the envelope on how much vibrato is acceptable in mixed company -- and Tordella seems to channel Stan Getz more than John Coltrane on “This Was,” (if your imagination is powerful enough to imagine Getz mining volcanic multiphonics with the offhand ease that Tordella relishes.)
There is also a distinct homage to '70s fusion all over this disc -- nowhere more obvious than the Jeff Miles original “Moya,” a totally boiling cauldron of Mahavishnu Orchestra meets the Ventures where Tordella rips through the changes with controlled abandon. Miles follows with a wonderfully “outside” solo that had me laughing out loud.
I was also impressed with the creative use of the studio as an instrument, and I’m still trying to figure out the source of the bizarre backward-tape effect that opens “Coalition Of The Willing,” which continues with an absolutely wonderfully wacky atonal adventure from Miles, making "The Lost Weekend," as a whole, one of the most consistently engaging discs to cross my desk, regardless of geography, for quite some time.