CD Review: Paul Dietrich - Focus | Chicago Jazz Magazine

CD Review: Paul Dietrich - Focus


Hrayr Attarian


Paul Dietrich

Paul Dietrich – Trumpet
Dustin Laurenzi – Tenor saxophone
Paul Bedal – Piano
Tim Ipsen – Bass
Andrew Green – Drums
Katie Ernst – Voice

Trumpeter and composer Paul Dietrich’s Focus is a cinematic work that is simultaneously impressionistic and abstract. The eight originals sandwiched between a dramatic prelude and a serene coda not only conjure intriguing imagery, but also provoke introspective contemplation. This singular character—common to all the tracks—and superbly synergistic ensemble make for a thematically unified album.

Pianist Paul Bedal opens the haunting “So” with unaccompanied and melancholic sparse phrases. He channels Western classical influences in his pianism. Dietrich and saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi follow, blowing long somber notes in unison. Overall, the ambience is evocative of a stark, monochrome landscape. Then bassist Tim Ipsen takes center stage with a mellifluous and intelligent solo that imbues the tune with a warm mysticism.

Vocalist Katie Ernst adds her agile, wordless singing to Dietrich’s and Laurenzi’s own instruments on the refreshingly unique “The Quick Turn.” The trio performs emotive, undulating phrases over the rhythm section’s hypnotic vamps. The contrasting, though complementary eloquent improvisations by Dietrich and Laurenzi emerge out of this effervescent milieu. Ernst’s vocalise delightfully enhances the tense ambience.

Dietrich has found in Laurenzi a perfect foil as their equally distinctive, divergent approaches augment one another, resulting in compelling music. The expansive and wistful “Puddles,” for example, features a solemn atmosphere as Bedal’s percussive chords resonate against Ipsen’s sinewy reverberations and drummer Andrew Green’s restlessly rustling brushes. Dietrich blows warm, simmering tones with melancholic lyricism. Laurenzi brings a cool elegance to the tune, yet his soliloquy is no less passionate and is laced with subtle yearning.

Dietrich’s second release demonstrates the trumpeter’s artistic evolution. This captivating record may lack the raw boldness of its predecessor, but makes up for it with its cohesive content and mature, exquisite sound.  Dietrich and his bandmates are definitely at the threshold of promising careers.

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Matthew Golombisky