Kay Corditz, Elmore Magazine
Baritone saxophone master Erik Lawrence plays in several bands with some equally gifted friends, and two of those collaborations released CDs this winter. »More
This recording is a keeper.
"CD Review: Cleghorn/Lawrence/Hart/Miller Merge," Chronogram. www.chronogram.com
This CD smokes. It also tears your heart out.
Poet Cassandra Cleghorn pulls out her most somber themes and hammers them down on 18 tracks with some truly wicked players at her side—saxophonist/flautist and Levon Helm side man Erik Lawrence and members of Lawrence’s own band, Hipmotism, bassist Rene Hart, and drummer Allison Miller. Though brilliant as a collaboration, each player occasionally takes on solo roles, creating magic on the spot that also feels effortless.
Poet and spoken word performing/recording artist
All in all, this is a poet's album, and a musician's album. Going back some 15 years ago when Erik Lawrence and I first collaborated with jazz and poetry, I knew right away that his ear is as sharp as his playing. Rene Hart and Allison Miller are a telepathically connected rhythm section. And so it's no doubt why I think this 'on the spot' poetry and music recording with Cassandra Cleghorn sounds so natural. The "Project Grizzly" collaboration is particularly gorgeous and energetic. It really puts me in the room with the group. Lawrence's sax work on "The Leave Taking," however sparse, is pure genius.
Guitarist/composer/vocalist, The Burdens
The performances, the sound, the music and compositions, the images, the cadence, the everything is so good. Hart's bass is especially strong. Cleghorn works with the instruments, instead of laying the vocal track over them. The interplay with Lawrence's sax is at times almost like there is another voice in the songs, a breathing, sputtering, living thing. And man, Miller rocks the skins.
Novelist, playwright, professor of performance studies at UCLA
I can't stop listening to this CD. Each piece of music is like something I needed but didn't know I needed, because it didn't exist, until now. Cleghorn's spoken voice is more like song than song, her planar CA accent unexpected but oddly right.
Poet, publisher/editor of literary tabloid Home Planet News
This CD has become my favorite. The poetry - jazz thing has never been my favorite way of presenting either art, because I have never heard it done satisfactorily, and I've listened to the best. I've even done it a little myself (most memorably with Karl Berger and Ree Dragonette at the Village Vanguard around 1969). But what Merge does is something else. Cleghorn's poetry is so good, and the music is so good. And the quartet does it together so sensitively. Neither entity needs the other, but both are enhanced by the collaboration.
Poet, translator, professor of writing Naropa University
Listened to the CD and love how finely tuned, and skillfully produced it is... The ease of it is notable too, none of that over-stretching you get from a lot of neo-Beat performances.
Massage therapist, poet
First of all, I am madly grateful, wildly grateful. I have been listening all week, and feel changed ...because I don't "do" jazz, and am not always comfortable with it... I want to say to Cleghorn and to the group Merge: I bow to you, and thank you. I agree, this is how poetry can merge: with music and with souls.
I love this project. Merge is a whole different wonderful work of art. Each song on the CD is so intuitively timed out. It's just great!
Mt. Greylock Regional High School
I have seen many dedicated musicians perform in my day, but none have made me understand the language of jazz like Merge did. I have never seen the instruments they played make those sounds that I never thought I would hear...And for the people who don't count poetry as an instrument, buy this CD. I was just plain inspired.