Marilyn Lerner: Birds Are Returning

Montreal-born pianist Marilyn Lerner is an experimenter with an ear and touch for invention on the far edge of convention, as was discovered at the Toronto Jazz Festival in ’96. Two longtime friends, Torontonians and certified Cuba-philes-saxophonist Jane Bunnett and her trumpeter husband Larry Cramer (saxophonist-flutist and producer of the date respectively)-convinced Lerner to take still another adventure, this time of a southerly nature. So off they went to Egrem Studios in Havana to make music with some of Bunnett and Cramer’s Cuban cohorts-who just happen to be some of the sturdiest Afro-Cuban jazz musicians in that music-rich land of contradictions.

What results is a disc rich with Cubano flavors immersed in various colors of jazz. Lerner is clearly an artist who knows how to establish a lovely disposition. Witness her gorgeous, moody treatment of the Gershwin warhorse, “I Loves You Porgy.” Her classical experience surfaces most succinctly on her own compositions, a la Solomon. Renewing Horace Silver’s arresting Que Pasa proved to be a ten-strike, but lest one get the impression of a program largely of standards, it should be noted that Lerner originals dominate the session. Soloists of note include Bunnett and tenor saxman Yosvanny Terry.