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Lawn Chair Society (2007)

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Dave Douglas

Pianist Kenny Werner's Lawn Chair Society is a cerebral mix of acoustic jazz, electronic elements and generally expansive improvisation that comes and goes in terrifically unexpected directions. Inspired by a varied mix of artists from Radiohead to In a Silent Way-era Miles Davis, Werner has crafted a forward-thinking album that stands uniquely alone from other similarly minded electro-acoustic jazz projects. In fact, while Werner does reference funky, '70s fusion on Lawn Chair Society -- especially in the James Brown-inspired "New Amsterdam" -- this is by no means a funk album. More often than not, Werner creates clinical, often random-sounding electronic soundscapes which he weaves together with improvisations by his stellar sideman. Similarly engaging though are his more melodic and lush moments like the poignant ballad "Uncovered Heart" written after the birth of his daughter. Werner had decided to include the song on the album when his daughter died tragically in a car wreck at the age of 16 in 2006. Her death and Werner's subsequent journey of grief underscores much of what is on Lawn Chair Society. Interestingly, while there are truly sad, meditative songs here like the sweeping and darkly orchestral "Loss," other moments like "west_coast_variant," while robotic and brittle, are nonetheless playful and lively in tone and feature stellar improvisations by Werner's cohorts. Backing Werner here are a who's who of modern jazz artists including trumpeter Dave Douglas, tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade. Thought-provoking, challenging, heartbreaking and truly inspired, Lawn Chair Society is quite simply Werner's masterpiece. ~ Matt Collar