Lorraine Feather: Math Camp (Relarion)

Review of a new—and typically clever—album by the singer and lyricist

Cover of Math Camp by Lorraine Feather
Cover of Math Camp by Lorraine Feather

Released just after her 70th birthday, Math Camp continues the reign of vocalist and lyricist Lorraine Feather as one of the sharpest wordsmiths in jazz. Feather’s latest is another wellspring of cleverness that bounces between sweet, sardonic, poignant, and mirthful. Her talk-sing style remains bracing and her bandmates are as diverse as her playlist, with 10 players weaving in and out, including pianists Fred Hersch, Russell Ferrante, and Shelly Berg; guitarists Eddie Arkin and Gilad Hekselman; and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. Of the disc’s 10 originals, six feature music by Arkin, four by Berg. Arkin and Berg also share arranger credit.

As always, Feather’s wordplay is dense and complex, dotted with references to Einstein, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Sir Arthur Eddington, and the Nobel Prize. Think of it as an intellectual jazz lab dedicated to the dissection of the human condition. “Hadron, Meson, Baryon” delves into the mysterious power of subatomic particles while “In a Hot Minute” traces the inevitability of evolutionary change to the dawn of time. “I’ll See You Yesterday” views how the overlapping of past, present, and future can shape an enduring relationship, “Euphoria” arcs the entire emotional spectrum, and the peppy “It All Adds Up” bubbles with sage romantic glee. Alone with Hersch on “Random Activity,” Feather examines the jumble of differences and similarities that define any partnership and the enriching power of happenstance. Finally, genius is both parsed and celebrated in both “Some Kind of Einstein” and the delightfully frisky, mating-of-nerds title track.