CD Review: Dustin Laurenzi “A Time and a Place”

By Hrayr Attarian





Dustin Laurenzi A Time and a Place

Dustin Laurenzi – Tenor saxophone

Jeff Swanson – Guitar

Mike Harmon – Bass

Charles Rumback – Drums






Possessing a unique, easily recognizable sound, saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi has been active on the Chicago creative music scene since 2012. Over this period Laurenzi has matured as a composer and an improviser. His seventh release as a leader/co-leader, the haunting and provocative A Time and a Place, demonstrates his talents to their fullest as he leads his quartet, Natural Language, through five captivating originals.

The framework of the ethereal “Slate,” for instance, consists of bassist Mike Harmon playing single notes in serene, chant-like refrains, with guitarist Jeff Swanson mirroring Harmon with his strums. Weaving in and out of the reverberating strings is drummer Charles Rumback’s thundering polyrhythms. Laurenzi embellishes the melody with muscular lines and melancholic tones—enhancing the somber ambience while simultaneously filling it with vibrancy. Swanson’s shimmering and tolling vamps underscore the piece’s primal spirituality.

Similarly, “Albert” is quite atmospheric with Laurenzi and Swanson stating the main theme over Harmon and Rumback’s expectant rumble. Swanson’s mellifluous extemporization is delightfully angular and crystalline. Dedicated to the saxophonist Albert Ayler, the ensemble performance—coalescing around Laurenzi’s agile and expressive tenor—flirts aptly with dissonance.

In contrast, “Ridgeway” is a more fluid tune with a subtle, dramatic sense and an intriguingly dense and dynamic harmonic structure. Laurenzi and Swanson take turns playing the emotive, wistful phrases as bass and drums create a tense backdrop. Harmon solos with eloquence and lyricism, supported by sparse notes and beats. Swanson’s turn in the spotlight is marked by contemplation and enchanting poetry.

The brilliant and multilayered A Time and a Place marks a natural progression in Laurenzi’s artistic growth. It is inextricably part of his overall work, yet also refreshingly novel and inventive. It is an album that can be simultaneously enjoyed on its own merits and equally appreciated as part of Laurenzi’s overall creative continuum.

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