Greg Loughman | Re: Connection Review
by Icrom Bigrad
Greg Loughman is a jazz bassist, composer, and bandleader. Loughman has made a name for himself as an “emphatically lyrical” -Scott Albin, JazzTimes, versatile, and sensitive accompanist who plays “with sublime authority” -Raul d’Gama Rose, AllAboutJazz.com and “delivers not only the foundation but also intriguing, melodic, cleanly stated solos” -Bill Donaldson, Cadence Magazine. Loughman is based in Boston, MA, where he is an integral part of the jazz music scene. He earned a Master of Music degree from the Berklee Global Jazz Institute and has performed and/or recorded with Danilo Perez, Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, Hal Galper, Yoko Miwa, Mark Murphy, and many others. His musical career has allowed him to perform at storied and diverse venues, including jazz clubs Birdland, The Blue Note, and Smalls, as well as larger venues and festivals such as Boston Symphony Hall, Ravinia Music Festival, Prague Jazz Festival, International Guitar Festivals in Kazan RU and Saltillo, MX, Ocho Rios Festival in Jamaica, and multiple tours in Japan. Loughman’s latest release, Re: Connection, is a suite of seven songs that investigates the current state of disconnect in this deeply divided country, which is divided racially, politically, and economically, and increasing isolation of the individual from neighbors, close friends, and loved ones.
Re: Connection begins with “Disunion, “which was originally titled “Darling Nelly Grey.” The melody was created during the Civil War era and is about a runaway slave pining for his love who was kidnapped and sold into bondage. It was written by Benjamin Hanby, a minister, and abolitionist whose family was a part of the Underground Railroad in Ohio. Then, in 1915, Ralph Chapin wrote lyrics to this same tune for the song The Commonwealth of Toil, an anthem in the fight for Labor Unions. The reinterpretation of this song explores its connection to the long history of racial, political, and economic tension in the US. Loughman’s warm-toned double bass performs the melody unaccompanied. Eventually, haunting background sounds enter and highlights the juxtaposition between the egalitarian, melting-pot self-image Americans have and the conflicts we face now, which have really always existed below the surface. At the midpoint, the ensemble finally enters with an expressive arrangement. Each instrument plays a distinct role in the arrangement. Tyson Jackson keeps an impressive groove on the drum set with a march theme. Anastassiya Petrova’s piano solo is building and expresses the colors of juxtaposition. The horn orchestration is colorful, subtle, and balanced. The result is a moving introduction that signifies a deep project in musical design and emotion perception.
“From All Sides” has a contagious groove and building melody. Loughman’s composition depicts the effects of the current trends of division and isolation. The first section has a clever counterpoint and sounds to create a swirling depiction of anger that represents the rise in hate-based violence. The music makes a beautiful transition into the second section, a mournful depiction of what sociologists call ‘diseases of despair’; depression, drug and alcohol addiction, suicide, all trends that have been on the rise in recent years. Loughman’s bass solo continues the pairing of contemplative performing combined with social awareness as the springboard. Also, during the bass solo, the backing horn orchestration is very ingenious. The more tranquile second section begins developing into a climax that recalls the first section, the feeling of anger and violence is turned inward. Loughman’s compositions are very storytelling and cinematic in nature.
With Re: Connection, bassist and composer Greg Loughman combines social awareness with insightful compositional skills to create a collection of imaginative pieces brought to life by an excellent ensemble of skilled performers. Loughman explains, “I found research that indicates that listening to music, joining in group activities, and helping others all have a positive effect on our mental, physical, and emotional health. If we combine the power of music, the power of community, and the power of generosity, we might just be able to fight back against these forces of division and isolation.” That is a powerful mindset and one from which all this wonderful music was created. Also, Loughman has established an organization called New England Jazz Connections, or NEJC. The mission of NEJC is to connect musicians, audiences, and performance spaces throughout New England and put on concerts to raise money for worthy causes. In the fall of 2020, NEJC hosted roughly 20 shows around New England and raised over $5,000 for worthy causes. We have continued and expanded our efforts in 2021. In general, Re: Connection is a fantastic body of work that combines music with thoughts and ideas to build a brighter future.