Saxophonist/Composer Lucas Pino challenges jazz’s hidebound traditions on
thrilling third album with his No Net Nonet
musical idol as a badge of honor, with spirited and virtuosic playing by Pino’s
long-running ensemble and guest vocalist Camila Meza
“It’s a pleasure to hear groups such as Lucas Pino's No Net Nonet, which are remarkably creative even as
they adhere to the basic precepts of melody, harmony and rhythm.”
– Jack Bowers, All About Jazz
“Cleverly arranged tunes that mix Mingusy grooves and harmonies and [swing] like a bopper in the process.”
– George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly
“Pino shows himself to be an inventive melodic thinker.”
– Shaun Brady, DownBeat
Pino and No Net Nonet perform last Tuesday of every month at Smalls Jazz Club in NYC
That's a Computer, due out October 19, 2018 via Outside In Music, takes its title from a comment made by one of Pino's professors at the Juilliard School. The teacher, himself a respected instrumentalist and revered jazz veteran, dismissed the work of one of Pino's idols with those three sneering words. At least it put the young saxophonist in good company - the same professor had derided Pino's own playing in similar terms, despite never sharing his wisdom with Pino directly.
"It's like they say, you never want to meet your heroes," Pino says. "I never even met this professor, but he would apparently hear me play at school concerts and always infer that I had a lot of brains but not a lot of heart. He never addressed me, never introduced himself, apparently had no interest in trying to help me with whatever deficiencies he thought I had, which has been a piece of sand in my clamshell for years. So I wanted to turn it around and make it a self-affirmation."
Almost a decade into its existence, the aptly-named, tightrope-walking No Net Nonet has become a rich and versatile vehicle for Pino's open-eared approach. With the exception of drummer Jimmy Macbride, who came aboard for 2017's The Answer Is No, the line-up remains intact from the Nonet's self-titled 2015 debut: alto saxophonist Alex LoRe, trumpeter Mat Jodrell, trombonist Nick Finzer, baritone saxophonist Andrew Gutauskas, guitarist Rafal Sarnecki, pianist Glenn Zaleski, and bassist Desmond White. Chilean-born singer-songwriter Camila Meza guests on two tracks, providing gorgeous wordless vocals to Pino's tense "Frustrations" and a scintillating interpretation of the words of poet Pablo Neruda on Sarnecki's "Sueno de Gatos."
The close ties that the band's members have forged since initially coming together in 2009 were honed by a continuous five-year monthly residency at Smalls Jazz Club and are exemplified by Pino's playful "Horse of a Different Color." Named for the shade-shifting Technicolor beast of burden from The Wizard of Oz, the piece is a portrait of the composer's bandmates in collage. Setting out to write a blues to showcase their talents, he contacted each of the soloists and asked their favorite keys to solo over. The end result cycles through their choices, shining the spotlight on each member in turn.
The heart-wrenching "Film at 11" suggests a tragedy played for ratings on the nightly news but in fact traces the progress of a date, delicately capturing the nervousness, anticipation and thrill of newfound romance. "Look Into My Eyes" is a love letter to the Arizona native's fellow New Yorkers, a plea for eye contact and human connection in a city better known for impersonal brusqueness and unflagging pace. "You can feel completely alone on a subway car packed with people," Pino says, "and there's something wrong with that. Looking somebody else in the eyes can be an invitation to interact, and New Yorkers often don't have the time or patience for that. That can create a caustic environment, and I think that every once in a while if we just acknowledged each other's humanity it would make living in the city a little bit easier."
"When you grow up listening to somebody and really appreciate their artistry it's disappointing to encounter them and have the experience to turn out nasty," Pino says. "I think being dismissive is probably harming the dismisser more than the dismissed. I never want to be callous or indifferent to new ideas, new people or new ways of playing. It's like improv comedy: the first rule is to always say 'Yes' and build from there. Don't be afraid; no fear." And no net.