After over 20 years as an in-demand sideman contributing to projects and performances from a diverse group of artists across the spectrum of jazz and improvised music, bassist Zack Lober presents an adventurous and deeply personal musical statement with his debut outing as a leader, NO FILL3R, releasing on the Netherlands-based Zennez Records.
With his formidable trio colleagues Sun-Mi Hong (drums) and Suzan Veneman (trumpet), Lober presents a set of deeply personal music with themes touching on our shared humanity, love, loss and the infiniteness of the universe, coupled with the spirit of freedom, openness and group improvisation.
The album was recorded live in one large room at the world-renowned Wisseloord Studios in Hilversum, The Netherlands. It was produced by Lober’s longtime friend and musical peer Ben van Gelder.
The lead single for the album, “Force Majeure,” is a term the world has become too familiar with in recent years. “Force Majeure is a song about forces greater than ourselves (e.g., climate change, the COVID pandemic and war) that bring us face to face with things we would rather ignore,” Lober notes. “The song represents the struggle between humanity’s wish for comfort and normalcy while knowing that the only constant in life is change.” The mood is resolute, hopeful and ultimately one of peace and acceptance for the way things are.
Coupled with the release of “Force Majeure,” Lober (who also holds a decade plus of experience in the DJ and electronic music world) was inspired to reach out to two of his favorite producers (Boston-based Fool’s Gold artist Durkin and Dutch turntable champion and modular synthesis innovator Kypski) for remixes. The goal was to give the artists “carte blanche” to create whatever the song inspired them to make. The results are diverse and a reflection of each artist’s aesthetic; Durkin’s “ready for the club” house-inspired mix and Kypski’s moody and sonically immersive space driven by the rich sounds of analog synthesizers.
The leadoff track, “Mid-Music” was originally conceived for Lober’s “The Ancestry Project,” a live multimedia performance work about the life of his grandfather. “‘Mid-Music’ has always been a fun tune to play in a wide variety of settings with its catchy melody, drum features and open improv concept,” says Lober, “and I thought it would make a great jumping off point for the album.”
On “a Hymn” Lober once again honors his grandfather while also paying tribute to one of his favorite musicians. “This song is both a tribute to my grandfather Hyman Herman as well as Paul Bley (who was from my hometown of Montreal and whose real name was also Hyman). The title is an anagram of both their names.”
On “NO FILL3R” the band’s namesake, Lober let the tape roll and directed the musicians in a series of completely free improvisations. The results reflect the spirit of the project in its purest form: taking chances, trusting the process and listening for what the music is telling you to do.
“Blues” puts the trio in more familiar territory albeit with an atonal riff head inspired by the 1960’s trio writing of Jimmy Giuffre. The song also features one of the album’s few dedicated bass solos and allows Lober a moment to share his own vision for improvising over the well-trodden 12-bar blues form.
The album continues with the Buddhist inspired title “Chop Wood,” a song Lober states is “… about carrying on with life’s demands as one attempts to perform a task while at the same time transcending said task.” That piece is followed by “Sun Drums” a brief meditative improvisation care of Sun-Mi before the last full band song of the album “Luck (Alice),” a grooving, soulful piece dedicated to Lober’s wife.
The album’s closing number “Loved Ones” is “a last moment of peace and remembrance improvised by Suzan which I dedicate to loved ones who have left, but whose spirits remain.”
NO FILL3R will be released by Zennez Records in digital download, compact disc and vinyl formats as well as on all major streaming platforms.
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