Pianist Joe LoCascio and saxophonist Woody Witt share a unique connection, able to play off each other and craft elaborate compositions fraught with spontaneous cuts and harmonious passages. Their latest effort Absinthe features music by Billy Strayhorn, amassing a dialogue that angles chord patterns in a mellifluous flow. Music improvised to create whimsical flights is at the heart of the compositions, motivated to make elegant chordal arcs and spontaneous musings. Notes come from the musician’s impulses, rooted in their emotions and threaded to construct verses that build on one another and form a kaleidoscope of tones and sonic shapes. It’s music that comes from the soul and shares its thoughts with listeners.
The individual tracks stream together to form a continuous story. The delineations between the songs are subtle as each composition feeds into the next like a novel separated into chapters. The flare of the saxophone blows with a will of its own in “Isfahan” as the keys place decorative frills along the progressions. The somber tone of the title track is clad in capricious twirls of the saxophone as the keys in the lower register support the freestyle exhibition. The off-the-cuff manner of the notes displays a natural purity as though they are unplanned and made from living in the moment, a concept which is carried throughout the recording.
LoCascio and Witt produce an intuitive rapport as they articulate their interpretation of Strayhorn’s music. They make cuts smooth and graceful like in “Daydream” and take on a narrative voice in “My Little Brown Book” as the saxophone and keys cultivate a contemplative mood. Loaded with substance, each track expresses private thoughts like the jolly vibe of “Charpoy” and the introspective feel of “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing” and “Lotus Blossom,” contrasting the malleable bursts of energy etched along “Rain Check” with a shuffling rhythm in its carriage.
Joe LoCascio and Woody Witt apply Billy Strayhorn’s thought processes to their improvisations, exhibiting an ability to play with a free spirit and give each track a personal touch. Classic compositions in their own right, the music of Billy Strayhorn becomes an exercise in discovering uncharted chordal patterns and exploring avenues which have never been treaded on previously. Absinthe reveres the works of Strayhorn as well as the composer’s ability to be a musician’s mentor for generations to come.
Joe Cascio – piano, Woody Witt – saxophones
My Little Brown Book, Charpoy, A Flower is a Lovesome Thing, Rain Check, Chelsea Bridge, Lotus Blossom, Isfahan, Absinthe, Daydream