Cult of virtuosity

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Why don't we just disregard John Lurie's immense cult of personality for the first part of this review and focus on the strange and beautiful music of The Lounge Lizards, okay? Since the Lounge Lizards have been around for almost 20 years, the group's music has improved steadily and also become somewhat identifiable. A nine-piece ensemble of top-notch musicians, the Lounge Lizards perform an essentially instrumental music that has its roots in the jazz idiom. While featuring able-bodied soloists such as Michael Blake on tenor sax and Steve Berstein on trumpet as well as Dave Tronzo on guitar and John's brother Evan on keyboards, the Lounge Lizards are still just a musical vehicle for John Lurie's noirish, angular muse.

Although clearly inspired by the improvisational nature of jazz, there is very little of the Lounge Lizards' music that is not thoroughly worked out in advance. Led by John Lurie's sardonic alto and soprano saxophone playing, the band embraces wild West African sounds, expositions from New Orleans and interludes of extremely wicked tango. Simultaneously sarcastic and spiritually-based, Queen Of All Ears is an unorthodox jazz album that non-jazz fans should be able to enjoy.

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