Microphones have been integral to “acoustic” jazz since the 1920’s: without amplification, the bass fiddle would drown, the New Orleans tuba would still oom-pah away and singers could not be star soloists. Skilled soundmen enabled audiences to hear what musicians intended. Pianist Marilyn Lerner takes this full circle. She’s extended her knowledge of suitable miking for piano recordings to include different types and placements of microphones as an extension of her keyboard. The instrumentation is really piano plus Neumann U87’s, Sennheisers, Rodes, Audiotechnica, RCA BKSB’s, a classical guitar contact mike, razor mike, 4” loudspeaker and Casio EM500 PDA codec. Luminance is really a duo performance by Lerner and sound engineer Steve Lebrasseur.
It’s worth buying Luminance just to hear Codec Moment, which incorporates resonance from the tiny mike in a Casio PDA. And that’s not the only golden track. Other experimenters drum on their pianos, but La boxe goes further: Lerner plays a mean Afro-Cuban jazz piano reminiscent of Tito Puente. She transforms her piano into an astounding Yoruba drum. Most tracks are 78-era short. Whether plucking, strumming, striking the innards of her instrument, or imagining new soundscapes for her keyboard, Lerner gets right to the point. There’s not much New York Bad Boy elbow-pounding on the keyboard, virtuosity and imagining new acoustics do the trick. Jazz luminaries like Steve Lacy, Sonny Greenwich, and Gerry Hemingway seek Lerner out. On Luminance, we hear why.