Erik Deutsch: Live at LunAtico

July 10, 2020
Tim Newby

Live at LunAtico, the latest album from former Leftover Salmon and current Dixie Chicks (now The Chicks) keyboardist Erik Deutsch is a fitting goodbye letter to his longtime home of Brooklyn, New York; the album was recorded at LunAtico’s, a local club that served as home base for much of Deutsch’s jazz explorations in Brooklyn. After 14 years in Brooklyn, Deutsch was preparing to move Mexico City and scheduled a final two-night send-off at the Brooklyn club he had played so many times before, with a band comprised of some of his regular collaborators: Tony Mason (drums), Avi Bortnick (guitar), Mike McGinnis (reeds), Brian Drye (trombone) and Fred Cash (bass).  

The resulting album is another validation of Deutsch’s immense talents. It showcases his skill as a bandleader and provides a perfect example of his adventurous playing and sound, which over his career has seen him play with everyone from his college-band Fat Mama to Norah Jones to his recent time with Leftover Salmon. Live at LunAtico highlights Deutch’s immense range, with five original songs mixed in with a scattering of covers including The Beatles “A Day in the Life” and Vince Guaraldi’s “Ginza Samba.” 

At his core, Deutsch is jazz, but it is how he incorporates all those other musical elements and excursions he has ventured into over his career that shines through in his music. The album jumps right into the deep end with the bouncy, groove of legendary alto saxophonist Art Pepper’s “Red Car.”  Pepper is an important touchstone for Deutsch; his instrumental, storytelling approach takes the listener on an aural trip. Those same characteristics can be found in Deutsch’s own compositions.

During the extended exploration of “Little Bell,” the elements that Deutsch brought to Leftover Salmon over the past four years are instantly recognizable – slow-building tempos exploding into world-class melodies that are full of space and texture, creating room for the music breathe.  “Little Bell” subtly recalls those live Sockeye moments Deutsch crafted with Salmon bassist Greg Garrison and drummer Alwyn Robinson.

Deutsch easily exists between multiple musical worlds, and it is this chameleon-like ability to slide between styles and seamlessly bring them together that defines his music. Live at LunAtico perfectly encapsulates this: a thoroughly modern jazz album that echoes traditions of the past while pushing Deutch’s always-evolving sound and style into new, unexplored, sonic landscapes.

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