Columbus-based drummer (as well as composer, arranger, and educator) Mark Lomax II and his trio (Eddie Bayard on tenor saxophone and Dean Hulett on bass) released their second Inarhyme Records album Isis & Osiris on September 16th. As detailed in the liner notes by Lomax and his father, Dr. Mark A. “Ogunwale” Lomax, the album is based on Lomax’s thoughts on “how great it would be to create music around Black African mythological and spiritual themes in the way that movies, music and literature have been created around the resonant themes of ancient Greece and Rome.” Isis & Osiris consists of six larger pieces that illustrate African mythological characters and action sequences, and four shorter interludes of solo improvisations by the players. The result is a cohesive body of work that tells these stories through beautifully emotional spiritual jazz.
The album opens with “Kemet,” a long, slow-building piece that eventually grows into a stately Nubian melody. The first interlude features Hulett, and his melancholy, reverberating solo sets the tone for the remainder of the interludes, as it segues perfectly from the end of “Kemet” as well as into the opening of “Isis.” “Isis,” the melody of which was originally written by Lomax for his wedding, is a dramatic tune with open-ended improvisations from all of the players. After a drum interlude, Bayard’s melody “Osiris” swings with a natural confidence over a rolling beat, aided by the warm, broad tones of Hulett’s bass. The full band tunes on the second half of the album are shorter, as the heroic characters have been introduced and are now drawn into active roles in the triumph of love over evil. The rousing finale “Resurrection” celebrates this triumph with the most traditionally swinging tune on the album, and the band transitions quite well. The tunes on Isis & Osiris ride the line between conventional bop and more open, free jazz, but the spirituality and raw emotion of the individual and group performances smooths over subgenre descriptions and crafts a body of work that manages to be both accessible and challenging for the average jazz listener.
Isis & Osiris is now available in either digital or CD form here. As Hulett recently moved to San Diego, and Lomax and Bayard maintain busy out-of-town schedules with their other projects, there is no local release party planned as of yet. The trio does aim to go on tour in 2015, so hopefully a local display of this majestic music will work out sometime soon.
Here is a trailer for the album to give you a brief taste of the music and concepts presented: