AMN Reviews: Matthew Lux’s Communication Arts Quartet – Contra​/​Fact (2018; Astral Spirits)

This album was actually released on cassette back in September 2017, and it was either a quiet release or we completely missed it (probably the latter). Nonetheless, it is already being re-released on vinyl with greater fanfare. In fact, this version of the recording is a new edit of the album with a different track ordering.

But on to the music – bassist Matthew Lux is a familiar name in Chicago jazz circles, playing with Rob Mazurek among many others. Contra​/​Fact is his first release as a leader. Accompanying Lux are drummer Mikel Patrick Avery, cornetist Ben Lamar Gay, and reedist Jayve Montgomery. All members of the group contribute percussion and either keyboards, synth, electronics or samples.

As might be assumed from the retro-stylings of the album cover, Lux and friends provide more than just a nod to the past. Indeed, Contra​/​Fact has a thick, analog, funky, and experimental feel that invokes the early 1970s. Take the aforementioned Mazurek, combine with Art Ensemble of Chicago and electric Miles, and you have the beginnings of a description of these efforts. But Lux’s quartet heads off into uncharted territories, which gives the album a freshness as well.

This not free jazz, as most of the tracks have a clear rhythm if not a groove. Nonetheless, experimentalism reigns with voices, disjoint themes, odd percussion elements, and electronics accompanying the horns across long jams and shorter statements.  The result is a dense, heady mix that deftly connects two time periods, and comes highly recommended.