Tyson Rogers & Lois Deloatch

Holy Night

(self-released) Lounge Magic

A Lounge Magic Christmas

(self-released) Pianist Tyson Rogers is considered one of the leading lights of the young wave of avant-garde jazz musicians, especially those setting free upon definite melodic figures in the tradition of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. He’s released work through John Zorn’s Tzadik imprint, and his turns with The Blueprint Project is incumbent listening. Of late, he’s been occupied by seasonal work, turning in two very different yuletide works, one with jazz vocalist Lois Deloatch–imagine Mahalia Jackson’s core-of-the-earth breadth brushing Billie Holiday’s salt-of-the-earth sonority–and the other with the waggish Lounge Magic.

Heard here with Deloatch on Holy Night, Rogers’ playing is a marvel, capable of an austerity reckoned only through practice, rendering precise control of his instrument and, more importantly, an impeccable, deep tone. Like Marc Ribot, Rogers is an instrumentalist with the capability to push things forward but the musicality to realize that, sometimes, the song–the melody, the feel, the vocalist–has to push itself forward. Deloatch more than manages, offering soul-soaked readings of “Amazing Grace,” “Hark the Herald” and “People Get Ready.”

But change clothes. Put on your best powder blue tuxedo, suspend your disbelief and step into the time machine of Lounge Magic. Get ready to get whimsical, and then command the crew–Rogers, Ellen Lazaro, Mark John Lewis, Pamela Vesilind and Michele Easter–to push through to winter. Step under the mistletoe, and let the surreal nature of A Lounge Magic Christmas show you how a soundtrack to a multi-ethnic Wes Anderson Christmas movie would sound. Rogers’ “Times Square Mambo” paints an instrumental mural of Times Square at 11:58 p.m. on Dec. 31, tense in the roots (of a taut bassline) and giddy at heart (with high-spirited ivory runs). Elena Lazaro’s turn on “Ya Viente Santa Claus” is too cute not to conjure a smile. Keyboards, synthesized strings, simple rhythms and playful figures galore come embedded throughout, one keyboard moving counter to another. A Lounge Magic Christmas makes the yule so pleasantly goofy and disarmingly innocent that it just may be hard to settle for “Happy Holidays.” x