The beauty about Paradise Road, from the Steve Lantner Quartet, is that it is different every time you listen. The conglomerate of abstractions becomes a melody. The quartet works as a coherent, solid group.
The music sparkles with a continuity of colors. The thematic phrases become the bridges for entry and transitions to other modes of expression. The sonic expression as a whole is more stylistically formal than not. Theoretically, the formal-ness could render the music rigid. The music is far from rigid but lacks in lyricism.
Every one has a say-so. No one instrument assumes the lead. An individual instrument may carry the lead at one point. Solos are laid out by each of the band members. Each instrument’s texture is distinctly identifiable.
Lantner on piano utilizes the entire keyboard. When he surges ahead, he plays methodically and lithely, never skipping a beat. He fabricates a concrete, streaming stability that interlaces with the steady support from the remaining musicians. Lantner expands his lines and turns them into thickets of pianistic richness. His tempo is smart and his statements are direct, when he plays solo and together with the group.
Joe Morris on bass marks his place with his precise snapping of the resonant strings on his instrument. With walking fingers, Morris can provide an ardent swinging groove that pulls together the rest of his fellow band mates. When the bass is out of focus, its sound always rests firmly in back of the frontline. When the bass is in focus, the sound is clear, complex and multi-faceted.
Allan Chase on saxophones adds an effective openness to the quartet. The reediness of his saxophones metabolizes the musicality of whole unit. Chase lightens and brightens the signature mid-range quality of the bass, piano and drums. He prances through melodies. His pronouncements become involute and nearly vocal.
The drums played by Luther Gray are lively and on target. Centered in the snare, Gray maintains a stake in the overall equanimity of the band. The cymbal and bass drum accents curb any question of the music’s direction. The drums protect the integrity of the spontaneity of this live 2005 session.
Conceptually based improvisation is audible from a mile away. This recording exemplifies that assessment. Paradise Road documents the most self-referential set of music I have heard in a long time.