This Song Is New
Release date: April 2, 2021
Label: Modica Music
This Song Is New, Canadian jazz guitarist Lorne Lofsky's rousing new album, is the artist's first recording as a leader in over two decades, signaling an exciting new page in his illustrious career. A master guitarist known for his pianistic voicings and virtuosic skill, Lofsky is considered one of Canada’s great musical treasures. Joining Lofsky is his tight-knit quartet made up of his longtime musical associates: Kirk MacDonald on saxophone (with whom Lofsky has played extensively since the early 1980’s), bassist Kieran Overs, and drummer Barry Romberg.
Born, raised and based in Toronto, Lofsky’s career began when Oscar Peterson offered to produce his first record, It Could Happen To You (Pablo Records), in 1980. During the years that followed, Lofsky worked extensively in the Toronto area, and toured with the likes of renowned saxophonist Pat LaBarbera, and fellow guitarist Ed Bickert. Bickert and Lofsky’s fruitful collaboration ran from 1983 through 1991 and produced two widely-acclaimed recordings including the well-known 1990 Concord release This Is New. In the mid-1990’s, Lofsky gained further recognition as a member of the Oscar Peterson Quartet. From 1994-1996, Lofsky toured with Peterson’s group at venues all over the world from Carnegie Hall to the Montreal Jazz Festival, and appeared on three recordings. Lofsky was Chet Baker’s “go to” Canadian guitarist – heavily featured on the legendary Jazz Trumpeter’s 2000 release “Live at the Renaissance II”. His other notable collaborations include performances with Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Benny Carter, Joey DeFrancesco, Dave Holland, Rosemary Clooney and Clark Terry, among others.
While Lofsky has built a widely-respected reputation as a world-class player, he has also become known as a prominent and sought-after educator. Currently, he teaches at York University and Humber College in Toronto, has an extensive private teaching practice, and he has guest lectured at a plethora of top-notch institutions such as St. FX University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and McGill University in Montreal, among others.
With a resume like Lofsky’s, it may seem as though he has already accomplished all he set out to do, and it would be perfectly reasonable for him to rest on his laurels. That is, however, not the case, as the musician is on an unending journey of discovery and is consistently working to refine and evolve his sound. “There’s always a new opportunity to discover something,” Lofsky says. “I’m constantly trying to add more information to my vocabulary, to my skillset, knowing that when it’s time to play, I can tap into that and do it in a way where it’s completely unconscious.” As revered journalist James Hale outlines in the album liner notes, Lofsky eschews outboard effects and pedals, preferring to focus on what he can pull from the strings with his own technique.
While Lofsky is never far away from his guitar, composing is something more sporadic, which explains why it has been nearly 25 years since his last recorded work as a leader. “I’ve been concentrating on playing for most of my life,” says Lofsky. “But every once in a while, I kind of go on this little ‘mini binge’ and I feel inspired to write something.” That ‘something’ comes to life on This Song Is New, making Lofsky’s long-awaited return all the more triumphant.
The resulting work is a seven track collection featuring five new originals and stellar arrangements of Miles Davis and Victor Feldman’s “Seven Steps to Heaven” and Benny Golson’s “Stable Mates”, expertly performed by this outstanding quartet. The bond between this foursome is so tight and intuitive, that the majority of the tracks on This Song Is New were cut in a single take. “We’ve all played together in different sorts of incarnations for a long, long time. There’s a lot of chemistry, a lot of trust. When we play, we don’t really have to talk. It’s like putting on four very well-worn baseball gloves; it’s just, go.” Originally meant to be a casual readthrough at Roberto Occhipinti’s Modica Music Studio in Toronto, Lofsky had no intention of releasing the recording commercially until he heard the exceptional results.
Looking at the material as a whole, the consistent thread throughout is Lofsky’s quest to approach music in new ways, particularly when it comes to revisiting tunes like “Seven Steps” or “Stable Mates”—whether it’s in the time signature or the harmony. “It’s not about emulating what I’ve heard; it’s about tapping into something the music suggests. I try to stay open to different things that might come to mind and open to new possibilities in my playing.” On a song-by-song basis, his approach yields consistently fascinating results, with his open-eared philosophy inspiring his collaborators to dig deeply into their own imaginations.
Looking over the entirety of this ‘get-together with friends,’ that wasn’t originally intended for public consumption, Lofsky is characteristically torn between acknowledging the achievement, yet seeing it as one more step on a journey. “It’s a jazz record. This is music that’s instinctive. It’s not a pop record, where the producer spends six months trying to get the right reverb on the snare drum, and the bassist records his parts separately. I’ve put the last 46 years of my life, on a daily basis, into this. And I’m not going to stop working on this, until I take my last breath.”
A funny thing happened to the Canadian jazz guitar master Lorne Lofsky as he walked down Mt. Pleasant Road in Toronto one day a little over 40 years ago, a thing that would lead the jazz piano titan Oscar Peterson to produce Lofsky’s first album. Read this feature here.
JAZZ GUITAR TODAY
Lorne Lofsky is a modern legend. I have heard of this master from the north for so many years it’s hard to believe he is a contemporary. He’s played with Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Tal Farlow, Ed Bickert as well as Rosemary Clooney, and Johnny Hartman. Like many of us, he started in rock and was highly influenced by Miles Davis’s 1959 “Kind of Blue”. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation so much so that originally scheduled to be a short interview it became so apparent to me that this was something special that we at JGT decided to make it our cover story. Enjoy my video conversation with Lorne Lofsky. Watch it above, on our YouTube channel and it’s also available as an MP3 to download. Check this video interview here.
"There's a relaxed and natural feel to the playing that makes listening to it all the more satisfying, and hearing Lofsky and MacDonald extemporizing comfortably with assured support from Overs and Romberg is certainly not a bad way to spend forty minutes. Does This Song Is New break new ground? Of course not—that was never Lofsky's intent. Instead, it's the sound of old friends communicating as they do best and allowing others the treat of eavesdropping on the conversation." Read this review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"But like "old school," "straight-ahead" is another one of those terms that's been used in a pejorative way, occasionally referring to something unsurprising or unoriginal, depending on author and situation. Related to Lorfsky and This Song is New it is merely a way of describing the guitarist's grounded approach to writing and interpreting jazz music, which is well-read in tradition while spiked with the virtues of a studied and original voice." Read this review here.
FYI MUSIC NEWS
Guitarist Lorne Lofsky had one of those career-altering moments at an open jam several decades back at George’s Spaghetti House while sitting in with a long-time Oscar Peterson childhood friend from Montreal and sideman for the Lionel Hampton band and the Boss Brass, trombonist Butch Watanabe. Read this interview here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"This Song Is New displays an abundance of warmth, thanks broadly to the singular talents of Lofsky, MacDonald, Overs and Romberg. As icing on the cake, the courtly session adds liberal measures of tastefulness and charm to outweigh its forty-three-minute playing time." Read this review here.
"As an esteemed member of Canada’s surprisingly flourishing jazz scene, Lofsky continues to explore the possibilities of straight-ahead jazz, played with a fluid assurance that echoes past masters of his instrument. On this mix of originals and compositions by Miles Davis and Benny Golson, Lofsky is backed by an agile small combo that stays in step with his direction." Read this review here.
Legendary Canadian guitarist and former Oscar Peterson collaborator Lorne Lofsky releases today his first studio album in almost 25 years. Read this announcement here.
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
Looking at the material as a whole, Lofsky's goal is to approach music in new and unique ways. His quest yields wondrous results that are plainly revealed on this excellent recording. Please, Lorne, do bring us another one well before a further twenty years should elapse. Read this review here.
MAKING A SCENE
"Well said, though this writer was unfamiliar with the Lofsky going in, the recording is surprisingly strong and so quietly understated, the kind that only veterans can usually achieve. This quartet is clearly improvising within the context of the compositions, but it comes across flawlessly as if they know very clearly where to take each step. Read this review here.
MICHAEL VAN GEE
JAZZ 'N' MORE
"A timelessly beautiful album that inspires." Read the full review in the July 2021 issue of Jazz 'N' More.
D. OSCAR GROOMES
"Many consider guitarist and composer Lorne Lofsky old school, a good thing in this case." Read the full review in the Summer 2021 O's Place Newsletter.
LONDON JAZZ NEWS
"Whether Lorne Lofsky and the group will choose to tour This Song Is New remains to be seen but I, for one, certainly hope they do. It’s a gorgeous album full of warmth, intuition and stunning yet gentle interplay that deserves to elevate Lofsky from the realm of the ‘guitar world’ and into the hearts and minds of the broader jazz public." Read this review here.
LA JAZZ SCENE
"The quartet carves out its own place in the classic idiom and clearly has a good time playing together." Read the review here.