Èlia Lucas Quartet’s Introspecció is a delightful album of accessible jazz. This empathetic ensemble conveys a variety of moods in a collection whose overall aspect it uplifting and life-affirming.
The young Catalonian pianist and composer has a wealth of music education and experience already, and plays in various jazz, pop and indie groups. She lives in Barcelona, where she teaches music and is studying for a degree in classical music. That interest in classical is reflected in many of the compositions on Introspecció. The other three members of the quartet – Edu Pons on alto and soprano sax, Tomàs Pujol on double bass and Kike Pérez on drums – bring her compositions and ideas to life.
A centerpiece of the album, both literally and figuratively, is “Bach Inspirations,” on which Lucas and her bandmates translate the art of the fugue into a playfully majestic blend of composed and improvised music. Perhaps taking a cue from some of Dave Brubeck’s crossovers, Lucas sets this contrapuntal exercise in a stuttery 6/8 laid down by the drums, bass and piano, over which Pons improvises sensitively and in character.
Pons is a key element of this quartet. I’m always glad to hear an alto sax, which to me expresses a less agressive set of emotions than most tenors, and Pons excels at both composed and improvised passages, only occasionally and briefly resorting to highly charged squalls that make a point without belaboring it – which seems to fit in well with Lucas’s emotional themes.
Lucas’s expressive right hand is evident in the opening “Intro,” an etude of sorts that briefly states the album’s overall theme and style. Pujols seamlessly moves from arco to pizzicato, providing color one moment and rhythm the next. The swinging “Cercles” draws us in with bluesy block chords, then Pons takes us on an exploration of a lovely waltz-time melody.
The quartet pushes the envelope furthest, both sonically and emotionally, on “Dreamin’,” which expertly mixes elements of modern jazz and contemporary classical ideas and techniques. Drummer Pérez, whose work on the album generally sticks to subtle ways, really cooks on this one. My favorite is “Linies” for the way Lucas subverts prog chord progressions with unexpected harmonic shifts, which seems to pull some great inventive soloing out of Pons, too.
If this were a pop record, the final track (and first single) “Natural” would be termed a power ballad. It’s a lush melody that rises to an emotional crescendo in its five minutes.
Lucas’s compositions here maybe play it a little too safe at times, but overall this is a lovely album full of nice tunes, sensitively performed by an ensemble that’s listening and reacting to each other. It will be rewarding to watch Lucas grow as a composer and performer in years to come.
Available on streaming services and the Microscopi website.