Although recognized first and foremost as an alto saxophonist, An Eight Out Of Nine finds Steven Lugerner exploring the lower register of the reeds, specifically bass clarinet and baritone saxophone, which “speak to me on a more primal level,” says Lugerner. “I feel more connected to the human voice.” Indeed, the melodies of the covers herein are sung through these low reeds played by Lugerner throughout the album.
(SAN FRANCISCO, CA) — Slow & Steady Records announces the release of SLUGish Ensemble’s debut album, An Eight Out Of Nine. Seeking musical therapy as a relationship was coming to end, SLUGish leader Steven Lugerner revisited a selection of “go-to” nostalgic recordings by many of his favorite artists. “I started to make a list of songs that tugged at my heart, soul and ears,” writes Lugerner. “The collection of songs your hear on this album are all songs that have been deeply embedded in my musical ethos, play after play.”
Lugerner also wanted to explore arranging a “non-jazz” book of repertoire for a completely instrumental, jazz-rooted ensemble as with SLUGish. Lugerner loosely borrowed a compositional technique from Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth, where one re-creates a song from memory, after a long span of time without listening to it as a crutch. This is the underpinning of An Eight Out Of Nine, in which Lugerner returned to the same question over and over: “What does it mean to create and compose something that’s hummable, that could get stuck in your ear and force you to sit with it, even against your will at times?”
An Eight Out Of Nine was recorded in three phases. In May 2017, bassist Todd Sickafoose (who also co-produced the album), drummer Allison Miller (who performed in the inaugural performances of SLUGish in 2015), and pianist Carmen Staaf joined Lugerner at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA to record the foundational layer of the music. For the second phase, Lugerner isolated himself in his family’s cabin in Arnold, CA, and recorded all the woodwind overdubs, including bass clarinet, flute, and saxophones. Phase three invited regular collaborators of Lugerner’s for additional overdubs: trombonist Danny Lubin-Laden (Monophonics, Brass Magic), trumpeter Max Miller-Loran (Invisible Inc., Watsky, Brass Magic), vibraphonist Mark Clifford (Dirty Snacks Ensemble), cellist Crystal Pascucci, guitarist Justin Rock (Bastet, Never Weather), and tenor saxophonist Daniel Rotem (Herbie Hancock, Usher). “I purposefully wanted to produce the album in a way that rubbed against the established process of many jazz recordings. I wanted to get away from the limitations that came along with recording an ensemble of this size in a live room. Ultimately, this is my sonic attempt to get closer to realizing ‘the sound’ I’ve been imagining in my head since I started composing and arranging music.”
“Every once in a while musical magic occurs when a bandleader steps up as a producer. It can be curating on the highest level. Steven Lugerner has proven this true with his new SLUGish Ensemble release. He has crafted an album that beams with intention, emotion, compositional maturity, and a masterful use of dynamics and space.” – Allison Miller