Home base is contemporary jazz, but after that, who knows where it goes? With a lineup like this one – Lewis Porter (piano); Phil Scarff (saxophones); John Funkhouser (string bass) and Bertram Lehmann (drums) – all bets are off. Chances are good that the music on Three Minutes to Four will take listeners to destinations unknown. And that’s a very good thing.
Pianist, composer, educator, and author Lewis Porter; long known as a jazz educator at Rutgers-Newark, formerly Tufts and Brandeis, and as the author of books including the celebrated volume of John Coltrane, is active as a pianist and composer. He has performed or recorded across the USA and Europe with Dave Liebman, Wycliffe Gordon, Ravi Coltrane, Marc Ribot, and many others. Saxophonist and composer Phill Scarff peforms Indian classical music and jazz, and leads the acclaimed world-jazz ensemble, Natrzj, which has performed domestically and in India, Ghana, and elsewhere. He has shared the spotlight with icons of Indian classical music including saxophone great Kadri Gopalnath, Chitravina Ravikiran, Shashank, and Trichy Sankaran, as well as African master drummers Godwin Agbeli and Abrubakari Lunna.
Bertram Lehmann’s supple drumming makes him highly sought after in a variety of idioms. He has worked with Paquito D’Rivera, Liebman, Randy Brecker, Danilo Perez, and Claudio Roditi, among others. John Funkhouser has performed with Grammy nominees Luciana Souza and Tierney Sutton, Steve Gadd, Abe Laboriel Sr., Max Weinberg and many others. Clearly, the quartet comprises an illustrious bunch, and they have a chance to earn further laurels on Three Minutes to Four.
“The core of our music is contemporary jazz but we also incorporate a diverse range of influences from other sources, most notably Indian classical music, modern Western classical music, and Ghanaian music,” says Phil Scarff, helping to explain the band’s general direction. “Several of the pieces have their basis in ragas; in some we have employed contemporary Western classical compositional techniques, such as 12-tone rows and fractals.”
What helps the most is hearing those explorations on CD and live. Together, literally and figuratively, Scarff and pianist Lewis Porter venture to many places. They have performed and recorded around the world, as have their accompanists. In return, and as an immense favor to all of those who hear it, they’ve created music that takes listerners to almost as many unique destinations. The Lewis Porter-Phil Scarff Group is fresh, east-meets-west jazz, where rage merges with western classical, where Ghanaian traditional fuses with improvisational, and where organic neets studied. Three Minutes to Four is where stunning performance creates pure jazz excitement. It is at once deeply felt and eminently accessible, a glorious celebration of musical multiculturalism filtered through a prism of real jazz.