Press

 

**** "An abstract, intuitive performance that's also a lot of fun in its own way... Stylistic breaks and subversions are prominent... Laster's musical interpretation comes across in a fancifully aleatoric design that presents some fresh platforms for his impressive group's improvisations."

Aaron Cohen, DownBeat
review of Window Silver Bright


"It has always been Andy Laster's strength that he never allows himself to be limited in any direction. There are very few musicians who move with so little compromise between loose improvisation and intellectually-demanding compositional structures. . . . Thus, on Polyogue, naive curiosity and acknowledged experience come together in an inspired blend."

Jorg Konrad, JAZZPODIUM
review of Poloyogue


"Saxophonist Any Laster has put together a fine quintet with Hydra.  It challenges the idea that ‘hot and improvised’ rules out ‘cool and organised’:  it’s as if a free group were playing Third Stream abstractions…. Recognizably jazz solos are twisted into limpid neoclassicism.  Conscientious, high-quality chamber jazz — a rare commodity."

Ben Watson, Hi-Fi News and Record Review
review of Polyogue


"Inspired by Beckett’s chancy methodology, [Lessness’] clover leaf of lines—cello, trumpet, drums, reeds—teems with all sorts of unexpected turns.  But what they’re really about is precision. And pith. And, if it’s a particularly successful night, poetry."

Jim Macnie, Village Voice, Voice Choice


"While the focus of this excellent New York quartet may be its edgy improvisations, the real star of Soft Shell, the third album by Andy Laster's Hydra, is the leader's compositional smarts. With tight contrapuntal arrangements that maximize the colors of the pianoless group's concise palette, alto saxophonist Laster—a founding member of the collective New and Used—meticulously structures the album's 11 wide-ranging freebopish pieces, employing frequent shifts in tempo, tone and attack to generate new stimuli for his fearsome soloists."

Peter Margasak, JazzTimes Magazine
review of Soft Shell


"An important figure in the current new music scene, alto saxophonist Andy Laster leads an all-star quartet here with trumpeter/cornetist Herb Robertson, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Tom Rainey While certainly challenging, the group's music is also accessible, and there's even a standard on the disc, Kurt Weill's "Here I'll Stay." Laster, however, wrote the rest of the pieces. While some of his themes, including "South Shore Reform Experience Part 6," are quite beautiful, other tracks, such as "No. 16" and "Tentacles," are unpredictable, evoking the work of Ornette Coleman. Fans familiar with modern jazz shouldn't have trouble following what's going on here, as the solos are built on preset structures and steady tempos.

The instrumental work leaves little to be desired. Laster's solos, though angular and highly fragmented, are cliche-free and logically assembled…. Laster's group does an exemplary job, individually and collectively, exhibiting originality, inventiveness and emotional involvement. If only there were more of an audience for this type of music."

Harvey Pekar, Cleveland Scene Magazine
review of Soft Shell
 


"Alto/baritone saxophonist Andy Laster's music should not function as well as it does.  After all, the compositionally minded Laster has provided his quintet, Lessness (named with a passage from Samuel Beckett in mind), with a matrix of constantly shifting, overlapping compositional styles and dense, polyphonic themes. Laster likes the odd juxtaposition, and to that end, he'll suture funk to a passage of chamber music, or moody noir to breakneck bebop. All of this would add up to a postmodern train wreck in less-talented hands.

It seems somewhat relevant also to mention that Laster spent a fair number of financially stable years as a member of Lyle Lovett's band, and maybe there he learned a thing or two about listenability, which Window Silver Bright certainly has. With a neat, orderly sound that keeps ears close even as the compositions take strange detours, the music is light-footed at practically every point and loaded with attractive themes and effective compositional turns and pivots."

Aaron Steinberg, JazzTimes Magazine
review of Window Silver Bright
 


"Andy Laster's Lessness. Window Silver Bright. New World 80589, 2002. Not manyjazz artists can claim the Tristan chord, birdsong, and Piero della Francesca as influences, but Andy Laster is one of them. His [seventh] album as a leader finds him continuing to explore the lines that separate classical music and jazz, juxtaposing complex composed sections with group improvisation. Others' attempts to fuse jazz and classical music have generally failed in all the same ways: either by using jazz as a flavoring to be applied like chili powder to classical music, or by overarranging jazz compositions and forcing them into a classically designed musical straitjacket. Laster avoids such mistakes by taking the best of both traditions and applying them to his own compositions: each work includes carefully composed passages that function much the way the "head" (or central melodic theme) does in jazz, as well as longer improvised sections during which bandmembers have their way with the piece, though never without discipline or taste. Unlike many improvising ensembles, Laster's group never sounds like a competing horde of virtuosos, each trying to get his musical comments heard above the others; instead, each member sounds almost solicitous of the others. The resulting sound is by no means tentative or quiet, just musical…. Strongly recommended."

Rick Anderson, Notes Magazine, Second Series, Vol. 59, No. 2
review of Window Silver Bright


"Laster's group Hydra sculpts classicized jazz improvisations that are light and fluid, clever and poignant by turns."

Kyle Gann
The Village Voice


"Alto and baritone saxophonist Laster, a member of the wonderful New and Used quintet, appears here with trumpeter/cornetist Herb Robertson, guitarist Brad Shepik, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey. These guys are important in New York's exciting "new music" scene, in which jazz, classical, rock and ethnic music are being blended in various combinations. They're at ease in both free and highly structured contexts.

The compositions on Polyogue are angular and evolve unpredictably. Laster's group puts a good deal of emphasis on both written and improvised ensemble work, some of it pointillistic. Shepik improvises brilliantly, employing a bright tone and sinewy lines. Laster's shown himself to be a strong, imaginative soloist in the past; he's got excellent time and a lot of presence. My only complaint here is that he doesn't feature himself enough."

Harvey Pekar, Isthmus Magazine
review of Polyogue