By Anthony Dean-Harris | Published January 2020
Lauren Lee sings a bit off-kilter, her phrasing doesn’t make natural arcs and she’s certainly not one to take the most expected musical paths. However, the bandleader always maintains a cool, even tone that makes all her zigs and zags easy to follow. When scatting alongside her work on keys, she breezes along like a welcome, blustery fall day. She’s making tricky decisions on Windowsill, but she and her group are deft at making these bold moves work.
The first half of “Tomorrow Is Coming” is a slow-building free-jazz meditation that takes a sudden turn into a spiritually uplifting ballad without any hint of whiplash. Brad Mulholland’s flute acts as the perfect accent for the vibe that’s cultivated here, as if it represents the astral-soul of Lee’s voice on a journey. “Aback” is as fine a setting as any for Marcos Varela’s bass to showcase the same inspired lyricism that Lee displays. And closer “She Who Journeys” is a constantly rising composition that travels boldly, but in such a way that the song’s—and the album’s—conclusion feels like a natural culmination.
There’s enough conventional playing here to make the more difficult passages work. (Across the album, Andy O’Neill is confidently supportive, never too flashy behind the drums, keeping the whole thing aloft.) But this isn’t a high/low or art/pop dichotomy. These are entirely different considerations. Lee—in her voice and at the keyboard—is, in a very balanced way, presenting a unique approach, but one grounded enough to support the contrasting moods and musics, which really is what makes Windowsill so engrossing.
Windowsill: Windowsill; X-Berg; Get Off Me; Peaks And Valleys; Tomorrow Is Coming; So Long; Aback; She Who Journeys. (49:16)
Personnel: Lauren Lee, piano, Rhodes, vocals; Brad Mulholland, alto saxophone, clarinet, flute; Marcos Varela, bass; Andy O’Neill, drums.