Russ Lossing

pianist . composer . improviser

Metamorphism Reviews

January 5, 2021


By Filipe Freitas

Label: Sunnyside Records, 2021

Personnel - Russ Lossing: piano; Loren Stillman: alto and soprano saxophones; John Hébert:

bass; Michael Sarin: drums.

The authoritative lyricism of pianist/composer Russ Lossing is recognizable on this new

quartet effort in which he pairs down with bassist John Hébert and drummer Michael Sarin to

form a highly sensitive rhythm section. The underrated saxophonist Loren Stillman completes

the group, offering his idiosyncratic melodicism, resignation and full allegiance to Lossing’s

compositional intentions and immersive moods.

The complex attributes of the opener, “Three Treasures”, allow us to find hidden emotional

depth amid the dancing Eastern-tinged melody and sultry harmonic sequences. The four

musicians promptly show to be in full control of their instruments, managing to excavate

groove from the off-kilter ambiance. Sarin’s rhythmic drive and Hebert’s droning tenacity are

notably effective in the back, while, for the most part, Lossing becomes the melodic force at the

fore. The latter’s comping also reveals responsive interaction when Stillman steps forward.

“Sojourn” is an old sleek piece whose polyrhythmic motif and odd tempo make it soar as if it

had no ground. The group rides it with grace, especially Stillman, who infuses his playing with a

Konitz-type of vibe.

Lossing dedicates two pieces on the album to a pair of mentors and influences. If the achingly

beautiful title track, “Metamorphism”, was written for drummer Paul Motian, seeking deep

emotions and emanating tranquility while evoking the latter’s atmospheric jazz, “Blind

Horizon” is an evocative portraiture of the genius pianist Andrew Hill delivered with

incantatory melancholy. The harmonic colors pulled out by the solo piano intro are exquisite,

and the tune unfolds gracefully and gradually with a circling piano figure, sizzling brushwork,

agreeing bass lines and heart-rending soprano articulations. It then segues into a piano

improvisation that cleverly integrates a mix of explicitness and haziness.

Developed from an improvised idea originally recorded with a MIDI keyboard, “June Jig”

completely transfigures this atmosphere by imposing a more expansive, funky procedure

promoted by Hébert and Sarin. The bandleader only comes in at a later time, interacting with

Stillman over a swinging rhythm section.

Relying on the tenderness and charm with which is performed, “Mai” features a bass discourse

sandwiched between saxophone and piano statements, while “Pileatus”, agreeing on a fleet,

playful and iterative idea, directs the spotlight to the drummer.

Lossing continues to compose with as much astuteness as intricacy, and these eight tunes keep reflecting his singular voice.

Complete Communion: Jazz For January Reviewed By Peter Margasak

Peter Margasak , January 12th, 2021

Over the last two decades pianist Ross Lossing has brought his interest in pensive exploration to sleek post-bop settings as well as more free contexts, and in both cases his commitment to rooting around in the ambiguous corners of harmony and time, a la Paul Bley, has been a reliable pleasure. On this new quartet outing he generally operates in a more mainstream mode, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't push against the edges of orthodoxy in his probing improvisations and in the wide-open spaces carved out when his group elucidates his sophisticated, graceful themes. The opening 'Three Treasures' is larded with interplay, particularly in the call-and-response figures he navigates with saxophonist Loren Stillman, sizzling with the sort of dynamic extremes made famous by the second Miles Davis Quintet. The band — which also includes bassist John Hébert and drummer Michael Sarin — make the most difficult material, such as the rhythmic jujitsu in 'Sojourn', feel natural, turning on a steady interest by the pianist in creating out-of-sync situations, where different instruments overlay in different feels and tempos to project an elusive liquidity within performances that flirt with instability, but never collapse or lose direction.

Jazz Sensibilities

Russ Lossing | Metamorphism

by Jeff Becker

January 12, 2021

Pianist and composer Russ Lossing is releasing Metamorphism on Sunnyside Records.

The eight original compositions presented on the project is reflective of his continually evolving compositional identity. The quartet members are regular collaborators with Lossing and pivotal to the album's sound and success. Each member has an extensive vocabulary and the ability to play many styles without conforming to established sounds. The ensemble is Lossing – piano; Loren Stillman – alto and soprano saxophone; John Hébert – bass; and Michael Sarin – drums. Lossing wrote each of the eight compositions as a strategy for the interplay between the players. The ensemble is crucial to the success of the pieces. The result is an open, impressionistic interplay that gives each selection a 'buzz' of exploration and daring.

“Three Treasures” is a composition built on a rhythmic motif and Middle Eastern scale colors. The ensemble is synced, and the groove they create is beautiful. Lossing's composition explores a form that has space for exploration and written notes. Lossing's solo is a conversation with Sarin and Hébert with the tension and release and harmonic adventures being a fun listening experience. The ensemble's explorations live in familiar structural sounds and keen timekeeping. The fun in the investigation is the freedom and shifting of the melodic passages and propelling figures in a conversational manner instead of just following the 'changes,' for example. The solo sections unfold spontaneously and come across as a natural progression of the musical conversation inspired by the original theme.

“June Jig” has a straight-eight groove and an intervallic adventurous melody. With a back and forth between the theme and the rhythm section. The solos are relaxed, responsive, and a spike in their shape and intensity. Sarin's drum colors and polyrhythms are excellent and add fuel to each soloist fire. The feel changes to an up-tempo swing for the interdiction of Lossing's solo. His active arpeggios create waves over the feel. Sarin and Hébert provide a lively chugging rhythm over which Lossing unspools a solo of boundless imagination.  Metamorphism is an interaction of musicians that create cohesive improvisation on Lossing's compositions through an effortless facility. The written melodies are highly memorable, giving the ensemble a resounding conversational theme. Each of the members leads and follows based on the music's desire to grow. They know and own their voice as they meld to create a churning unit, each occupying slightly different niches within the music's spectrum.    Metamorphism is conversational modern jazz.

Russ Lossing drops eclectic new album 'Metamorphism'

Pianist and composer Russ Lossing has just shared an intriguing new record titled Metamorphism, featuring musical tributes to two late jazz musicians.

For the album, Lossing recruited three of his long-time collaborators: drummer Michael Sarin, bassist John Hébert and alto saxophonist Loren Stillman. The record is infused with a loose, impressionistic quality, beginning with the taut call-and-response patterns of “Three Treasures” before giving way to the laid-back ebb-and-flow of “Sojourn.”

It's followed by the brooding “Metamorphism,” a tribute to late drummer and composer Paul Motian. Its title references not only the improvisational nature of the piece, but strangely also Motian's email address.

“Mai,” like its preceding track, starts somber but soon picks up the pace to segue into a percussion-heavy interlude, “Pileatus.” “Blind Horizon” is yet another musical eulogy, paying respect to late pianist Andrew Hill by echoing his spacious style. The last two tracks are the jaunty, danceable “June Jig” and the erratic “Canto 24,” marked by a constantly shifting rhythm that makes it an apt closer for Metamorphism.

This new record is Lossing's latest release since last year's Mood Suite. In 2020, Lossing also featured on horn player Kazuki Yamanaka's Dancer in Nirvana, as well as Jeff Davis' The Fastness.

Looking Ahead in Take Five: Russ Lossing

ByNate Chinen, WBGO

Russ Lossing, “Three Treasures”

Pianist and composer Russ Lossing has long been an expert catalyst; he knows how to spark life from somewhere deep inside a band. On Metamorphism, due out on Sunnyside on Friday, he performs this feat with a band well accustomed to his provocations. Along with drummer Michael Sarin, an associate of more than 30 years, it features John Hébert on bass and Loren Stillman on alto saxophone.

“Three Treasures,” which opens the album, is a call-and-response exercise — of sorts. Its central motif is a chromatic scrap of a phrase that the members of the ensemble circulate, and occasionally distort. Lossing's solo begins shortly before the two-minute mark, extending the intervallic language of the motif. And don't miss the intrigue he creates behind Stillman, later on.

Musically Speaking

Jan. 2021

Pianist Russ Lossing's 'Metamorphism'

Captures Mystery in a Bottle

Pianist Russ Lossing'sastonishing quartet brings his idiosyncratic compositions to life on Metamorphism, with adventurous, expressive jazz that feeds the brain and the heart

Russ Lossing

Metamorphism (Sunnyside Records)

A review

From the opening percussive moments of the first track, “Three Treasures,” on pianist Russ Lossing's latest release, Metamorphism, you sense something feral, wild at heart, moving with a coherent but mysterious impulse. The long, complex head, the anxious rhythm, and the quartet's attention to touch and timbre pull you into the flow and through dynamic improvisations that float free but hew to the interior logic of that impulse. You may not know where this is going, but these magnificent musicians—Lossing, Loren Stillman (alto and soprano saxophones), John Hebert,(bass), and Michael Sarin (drums)—have already won your trust, and you know they will get you through the drama safely.

Lossing's eight compositions reveal a deep intelligence at work, but the music never feels brainy. The four members of the quartet make this challenging material instantly and consistently accessible. They shape it with deep listening to one another and with a constant, confident attention to touch and timbre that fulfills its expressive potential. It doesn't hurt that they are all splendid melodists.

The sense of open space is primary to Lossing's compositions, and the music seems to float mysteriously a few feet above the ground. Check out the space created by his piano and Sarin's whispering cymbals in the opening of the elegiac title track, an homage to the late Paul Motian, which is mystery made music. Lossing's expressive solo turns on an unexpected note at around the 6:00 mark, and you have to wonder if he surprised himself and went with the flow, or had intended the change of direction. Either way, it's an impressive inflection.

Stillman finds a vocal quality on his saxes that warms the proceedings, especially on the title track and the lovely “Mai.” Sarin gets to feature his melodic chops on the comical “Pileatus,” named for a species of woodpecker common to Lossing's backyard. Hébert contributes a deep feel and strong rhythmic sense throughout, with nice solo work on “Mai” and “June Jig.” (I just recently learned that he was born in New Orleans and studied with bassist Bill Huntington there. No wonder I've always admired his work. Yet another stellar musician from the Crescent City.)

On the excursive “Blind Horizon,” a tribute to composer Andrew Hill, resolution appears to be unavailable, but also unneeded. The percussive “June Jig” injects an element of dance and fun. “Canto 24” is built on a 13-measure head, each in a different time signature, but the slippery terrain is navigated with aplomb by the quartet.

Kudos to the sound engineer Paul Wickliffe, who recorded, mixed, and mastered the album. Each instrument comes through with warmth and clarity, with a full, rich expression of its sonic subtleties. His reproduction of the bass and drums—so difficult to capture cleanly and to balance, and so out of whack in one way or another on so many recordings—is perfection. His skill contributes importantly to the success of the album.

Lossing's thoughtful, intriguing compositions, the sensitive correspondence among the players, and their captivating improvisational developments make Metamorphism a noteworthy addition to the jazz catalogue. Play on, gentlemen!

Something Else

February 3, 2021 by S. Victor Aaron

At the beginning of this century, Russ Lossing was already a fully-formed pianist and composer testing the limits of structured jazz with panache and leading a high-powered trio with Ed Schuller and Paul Motian. He quickly established himself as a pianist with his own lexicon, a thoughtfulness that rivals Keith Jarrett but also a master of using space and intervals for emotional depth.

Lossing's style tends to bounce between avant-garde to modern jazz, often with some classical overtones (he was once mentored by John Cage). But it's all served Lossing well, because even when he's playing jazz in an orderly fashion, he never leaves behind his adventurous, unconfined spirit and that includes for this set of eight, urbane originals he released in January 2021 under the title Metamorphism.

Over time, Lossing's compositional acumen – great from the start has evolved into something that has an arcane quality, demanding closer and repeated listens to decipher (which, to me, is much of the fun of jazz listening). For Metamorphism, a guy who usually leads trios had put together a seriously good quartet to execute these new compositions, and perhaps more importantly, these are all guys who go back a long ways with Lossing. Joining Lossing this time is John Hebert on bass, Loren Stillman on saxophone and Michael Sarin on drums.

“Three Treasures” is what happens when not just one or two musicians modulate with careful preciousness; they all do and it makes for interesting interactions where you clearly hear each participant in their own space. The motif is repeated throughout but evolves over the course of the song.

Wayne Shorter-like chord patterns grace “Sojourn” and Sarin's light but loose drums hide a complex rhythmic pattern. Meanwhile, Stillman's alto sax glides over the constant changes with assurance.

Lossing had previously dedicated both a solo piano album and a trio album to his late drummer Motian, and the song “Metamorphism” is dedicated to the drumming giant as well. The title track doesn't really ride on a sharply-defined rhythm, it just floats along with a fragile, plaintive sense. Lossing's delicate touch on piano goes down a deliberate path of searching, Herbert and Sarin selectively adding punctuation at strategic spots, Stillman coming in to bring a lyrical soprano sax that adds even more colors to Lossing's tone poem.

“Mai” is measured in its cadence even as it's unencumbered in its melodic flow; Hebert's harmonic complement to Lossing's concept is just one of many indications that Lossing composed and arranged for these guys in mind. Sarin sets out a sinewy drum pattern for “Pileatus” that a Lossing and Stillman unison artfully syncopates around.

“Blind Horizon” is dedicated to Andrew Hill, and like Hill's work, this song has those esoteric chord progressions. Lossing really plumbs the depth of this emotionally complex strain during his aside.

For a while “Canto 24” is primarily built on a single chord but with a different time signature for each measure as Stillman and Lossing create on top of it and then after a reset, the band collectively gallops out of the gate and race toward free jazz.

Russ Lossing approaches each song on Metamorphism with cunning and a new strategy each time. However, it's not just a preponderance of fresh ideas that makes this album work so well; they are ideas that fit right with the people chosen to carry them out.

The Jazz


by Nolan DeBuke

March 1, 2021

Russ Lossing is a jazz pianist that has been in the New York jazz scene since 1986 and has played with the Paul Motian Quintet for over twelve years. Lossing has composed over 400 works and is in specialized demand as a world-class jazz pianist and improviser. His record catalog boasts eighteen albums as a leader, and as a sideman, he is featured on over 50 albums. Lossing has 5 CDs as a leader on the storied Swiss avant-garde label HatHut Records and releases on the Sunnyside, Cleanfeed, Fresh Sound, Double Time, Steeplechase, and OmniTone labels, as well as his own label Aqua Piazza Records. Lossing is now releasing Metamorphism on Sunnyside Records containing eight original compositions. The ensemble is Lossing on piano; Loren Stillman on alto and soprano saxophone; John Hébert on bass; and Michael Sarin on drums.

“Sojourn” explores the ensembles connections in dramatic song form and melody. Lossing wrote each of the compositions based around the players' interplay, and “Sojourn” has that in spades. Lossing exercises his melody writing before the many layers of interaction in the solo sections begin. The ensemble understanding and listening to each is the entertaining aspect of the track. Stillman's playing is inspired, and Lossing's interaction with Sarin is conversational.

“Canto 24” incorporates all the experiences of the entire ensemble performing an aspect of the melody. The artist deeply listens and tune in to the music's flow, taking their time to build each solo. Stillman is clearly aware of the ways in which sound has a physical effect, as well as the many sounds the saxophone can produce. Lossing's interactions with Stillman along the way is creative in its stuttering beats and stretches Stillman to significant impact. Lossing's solo takes on the same shape; building methodically to a climax. His creation is almost philosophical as he creates sounds of vowels and consonants to convey his melodies, changes, and construction of gestures.


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Reviews Music, Video & Books

Russ Lossing



By Cree McCree  |   Published March 2021

4-star review

Composer and improvisor Russ Lossing arrived on the New York scene during the early '80s, when he studied with John Cage and became a pivotal member of the Paul Motian Quintet during a 12-year stint marked by weeklong residencies at the Village Vanguard. With the release of Metamorphism, Lossing shines as brightly as any of the jazz pioneers who preceded him in mapping out their own musical journeys.

In 2019, the pianist honored the ever-adventurous late drummer with Motian Music and again pays tribute to him on Metamorphism's title track with intervallic layers of sound. Here, and throughout the album, Lossing's longtime ensemble of frequent collaborators—saxophonist Loren Stillman, bassist John Hébert and drummer Michael Sarin—is completely attuned to the bandleader's compositional vision, freeing each performer to take their own flights of fancy.

On the opener, “Three Treasures,” Lossing telegraphs an urgent message with keyboard triplets, echoed and amplified by Stillman's horn, setting the tone for a call and response among players who trust each other implicitly. From “Mai's” evocation of smoky late-night blues, caressed by Hébert's languid bass, to the peck-peck-pecking of Sarin's drums on “Pileatus” and the wideopen space of “Blind Horizon (For Andrew Hill),” a contemplative tribute to the late pianist and composer, Metamorphism reveals a series of worlds lit from within by Lossing's singular playing and composing styles.

JAZZIZ Magazine

by Eric Snider   April, 2021

Front-rank pianist Lossing, who deserves much wider acclaim, follows up a string of impressive trio albums with an outstanding quartet effort that adds alto/soprano saxophonist Loren Stillman.

Lossing is the kind of artist who can release a straightforward set of standards (Changes), an elegiac tribute to his long-time bandleader (Motian Music) and an impressionistic collection of originals (Mood Suite) — each with a different bassist and drummer — in the span of about 18 months in 2019-’20.

Metamorphism is built on meticulously crafted Lossing originals that frequently call upon his early classical days, and tend to be dark-hued. Unlike some of the pianist’s free-improvisation work, these pieces adhere to loosely constructed rhythms that move easily between grooves and pulses. Bassist John Hébert and drummer Michael Sarin provide supple accompaniment, whether it’s the slow drift of “Blind Horizon (for Andrew Hill),” the hyperactive quasi-funk of “June Jig” or the herky-jerky “Pileatus.”

It’s safe to say that Stillman is very much Lossing’s kind of musician. (In fact, Lossing played on Stillman’s debut recording when the saxophonist was 14 years old.) Stillman’s idiosyncratic playing belongs to no discernible “school.” He darts and weaves in consistently surprising directions, employing serpentine runs that rarely rely on swing-based orthodoxies, but remain coherent and accessible. Stillman’s tone can be tart, or he can fill his horn with breath and make it gauzy, quivering, flute-like.

Lossing is, plain and simple, a monster. With a richly resonant sound, he probes and wanders, darts, stabs, pokes around, then suddenly dazzles with an extended cascade that’ll raise the hairs on your neck. His technical prowess allows him to play as in or as out as he chooses, and he more or less splits the difference here in yet another masterful showing.

Metamorphism extends Lossing’s streak of triumphs.

All About Jazz


April 16, 2021

Registrato nel luglio del 2017, questo lavoro a firma dell'allora cinquantasettenne Russ Lossing, pianista della scena newyorchese originario dell'Ohio, vede all'opera un quartetto classico nella formazione, ma in equilibrio tra mainstream e contemporaneità negli stilemi.

Il leader, infatti, ha alle spalle trentacinque anni di collaborazioni con artisti di primissimo piano, da Kenny Wheeler a Tim Berne, tra le quali spicca quella, continuativa, con Paul Motian, alla musica del quale ha dedicato un lavoro per piano solo. Qui tale esperienza viene messa a frutto in otto brani originali, tutti piuttosto lunghi, alcuni dei quali presentano temi melodici e strutture ritmiche relativamente più tradizionali, anche se sempre aperte e complesse ("Sojourn," "Mai"), mentre altri sono più destrutturati e sospesi, fondendo comunque sempre tradizione e innovazione. Lossing è accompagnato da una ritmica sopraffina, con John Hébert al contrabbasso e Michael Sarin alla batteria, mentre ai sassofoni figura il più giovane Loren Stillman, antico compagno di strada di Lossing e anche lui collaboratore di Motian, oltre che membro dell'ultima Liberation Music Orchestra.

Tra le composizioni in programma spiccano quelle dedicate esplicitamente a due maestri come Andrew Hill—"Blind Horizon"—e appunto Paul Motian—quella che titola il CD. In entrambe Stillman è al soprano, nella prima con un approccio di ricerca del suono che ricorda il più recente Wayne Shorter, mentre Hébert e Sarin lavorano con una certa libertà nella costruzione di un mutevole, ma solido sfondo sul quale il leader e il sassofonista hanno modo di muoversi a piacimento. Il primo, in particolare, fa valere negli assoli la propria frequentazione della musica classica contemporanea e di quella di Motian, aprendo panorami dissonanti ma non eterei, spesso pulsanti di accentazioni ritmiche forti del sostegno della batteria di Sarin.

Sulla medesima linea anche la conclusiva "Canto 24," ove c'è spazio per un assolo di Hébert e per dei fraseggi, lenti ma corposi, di Stillman al contralto, mentre l'interessante "June Jig" è caratterizzata da una maggiore prevalenza dell'elemento ritmico, che ne pervade anche gli assoli. Lavoro eccellente, che si ascolta a più livelli: uno più immediato, sul quale è di grande fruibilità; un secondo più ponderato e attento, sul quale scopre tutta la preziosità dei propri dettagli.