Mark Lotz Trio: “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out!” (ZenneZ Records)
by António Branco
“The trio of German flutist Mark Alban Lotz, based in the Netherlands, is returning to a more avowed jazz on the new album, “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out!”, on ZenneZ Records. The music revolves around the “eight circuit model of consciousness” advocated by LSD and psychedelic guru Timothy Leary. Jazz.pt has heard it.
Mark Alban Lotz is a German-born master flautist living in the Netherlands (where other relevant musicians from this family of instruments, such as Ronald Snijders and Peter Guidi, have settled), who has been distinguishing himself within the effervescent European panorama of the most stimulating jazz and improvised music. Having spent time in Thailand and Uganda has contributed decisively to an idiosyncratic stylistic approach to the exploration of the flute family, which brings together elements of jazz, free improvisation and contemporary classical music, also bringing together musical traditions from different geographies. “I have a lot of imagination and wide-ranging interests that translate into music,” Lotz says of himself.
Collaborating with people as diverse as Han Bennink, Don Byron, Chris Potter, Jason Robinson, Thomas Strønen and Ernst Reijseger (to name but a few), he has shown a special interest in “in-between” projects, involving music, video, visual arts, theater and dance. He has already stepped on Portuguese stages on several occasions, namely in 2016 at MIA – Encontros de Música Improvisada de Atouguia da Baleia, and, two years later, to play at Hot Clube, in Lisbon, among other places. Jazz.pt has been following his journey for a long time. In 2014 we gave note of “Solo Flutes” (LopLop), his first solo album, the result of a commission made in 2013 by the Dutch Performing Arts Society and completed during a sabbatical in Berlin; in 2019 we have “Live at the JazzCase” (El Negocito), which documents a live performance of his Lotz of Music project in the Belgian city of Neerpelt and also in trio with “The Wroclaw Sessions” (Audio Cave) – voted one of the best records of that year by New Yotk City Jazz Record -, accompanied by the Poles Grzegorz Piasecki on double bass and Wojciech Buliński on drums.
Mark Alban Lotz’s trio returns for a second iteration, revamped, with a new album, “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out!”, on ZenneZ Records, the 20th in the flutist’s career. Accompanying him are two young but already well-traveled and prominent musicians from the Dutch scene: bassist Zack Lober (from New York) and drummer Jamie Peet. The music on the new album revolves around a bible of psychedelicism, Timothy Leary’s 1977 book Exo-Psychology, in which the Harvard-educated American clinical psychologist and writer explained the “eight circuit model of consciousness”, a theory of what he considered to be the eight stages of human consciousness. Since the 1960s, Leary has promoted the therapeutic use of lysergic acid diethylamide, known as LSD for short, in the field of psychiatry from his center of operations in Millbrook, New York. Adored by the beatnick generation, he was dubbed by Richard Nixon as “the most dangerous man in America”.
“This record marks my return to jazz”, says Mark Lotz; “contemporary jazz inspired by a psychedelic hypothesis; more: interactive, at the forefront, embracing rhythm and melody. When we play it, it’s often without a net”, the flautist emphasizes in conversation with jazz.pt. Feeling a drive to play with Dutch musicians, he recalled the distinct moments when he had heard Zack and Jamie play live and was attracted; on the one hand, certainly, the American roots; on the other, the very special connection between flute and drums, both of whom like to play fast. “I’ve been playing with Zack and Jamie for two years now. We’ve had a few gigs, not many…. Half of the pieces were played for the first time in the studio, the other half we already knew,” explains the flautist. The music we hear in “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out!” is fresh and vibrant, articulating the rigor of the compositions with the urgency of the improvisations. “Understand it as if it were your last breath. Jamie and Zack share that focus and attitude. Maybe an American vibe? When we play it’s ‘together and now’. We dive into a ball of energy together and dance in it.”
Inspired by “Invertebrate Vegetative Circuit No. 1”, about the level of biosurvival during childhood (attitudes of trust or suspicion), “Push” starts the record in dynamic mode, with the leader’s flute flying over a rhythmic base based on a motif proposed by the double bass that repeats and the drums underline. It moves forward and survives. “Beat the Drum” takes up the “Emotional-Locomotive Circuit No. 2”, the passage from crawling to walking; it is introduced by the drummer who soon imposes an energetic drive, in which the flute takes up to play freely; at some point it leaves the scene and the double bass enters for a good solo. The basic melody is then revisited, leading the piece to its finale. Starting from a small melodic cell that develops into a more complex structure, “Dance the Monolith”, one of the best pieces on the album, underlines the close articulation between flute and double bass, with the drums adding details and pulling the trio forward.
Inspired by the “Socio-Sexual Circuit of Domestication No. 4, “Lust” features a wordless vocalization that launches a fast-paced, stirring piece that resonates energetically throughout. Quoting several geniuses – Hermeto Pascoal and his “El Uovo”, John Lennon and Paul McCartney via “Tomorrow Never Knows” and even with a bow to Yusef Lateef (“Nile Valley Blues”) – “Relax and Flow” somehow puts water on the boil with its swingingly cool atmosphere; astonishing the agility of the flute and the effervescence of the rhythm section, always with much to say. “Bring Delight” is based on “Neurosomatic Circuit No. 5”, designed to be used in zero-gravity, and keeps the rotation high; a new moment emerges in which the double bassist takes center stage. It is a pleasure to watch the sinuous line proposed by the flute, always challenging itself and urging the other instruments to a very close interaction. The austere architecture of “Conciousness” makes this another of the best pieces on the album. A kind of synchronism of all phenomena, linked by the rhythmic line.
The bassist sets the tone for a jovial “Isabel” (a tribute to Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre, victim of feminicide in 2020, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexican city of all violence), which mirrors not only an energetic side, but also the sadness and love of a life that ended badly. Set to “Neurogenetic Circuit No. 7”, “Up!” again shows the importance of the rhythmic duo in a fast and energetic piece. As the curtain falls, the serene spirituality of “Trance Out”, made from the intersection of two beautiful melodic lines (using Indian bansuri), transports us to a faraway place, which may after all be very close.
Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out!”, Mark Lotz’s return to more avowed jazz, is a vibrant, energetic record that sets alarm bells ringing.”