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In Solitude

by SLUGish Ensemble

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Del Sur 07:27
Portola 06:07
Moraga 08:18
La Bica 06:45
Juanita 05:38
Myra 05:48


Led by composer and multi-reedist Steven Lugerner, In Solitude brings the chemistry of SLUGish Ensemble’s 2022 album, Live At Sam First, under the hood of Oakland’s venerable 25th Street Recording studio, extending the signature SLUGish minimalistic math-jazz to Lugerner’s inspired original compositions. The ensemble again features an enviable cast of emerging young players on the West Coast: keyboardists Javier Santiago and Steve Blum, guitarist Justin Rock, bassist Giulio Xavier Cetto, and drummer Michael Mitchell.

Isolated in the first year of the pandemic, Lugerner penned seven sprawling compositions that take the listener on a aural journey through the windy, hilly streets of his Miraloma neighborhood in San Francisco, which he walked daily throughout lockdown. In Solitude finds peace in isolation.

“Like many, I often felt lonely at the onset of the pandemic” shares Lugerner. “I heard somewhere that it’s more appropriate to frame loneliness as ‘being in solitude.’ While loneliness is often a feeling of sadness, solitude is the acceptance of being on your own and being at peace with it.”

From the busy thoroughfare of Portola Drive, to the one-block-long La Bica Way, as well as the powerful “No Justice, No Peace” (dedicated to Ahmaud Arbury, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd), In Solitude cinematically captures the places and feelings of this unprecedented moment that changed the world.

Without the ability to gig or workshop music, Lugerner retooled his approach to composition. Recalling a class he took with saxophone legend Jane Ira Bloom at The New School in New York City, Lugerner revisited a particular writing method where he would “have a practice session, take a nap, wake up, turn on a recording device, press record, and capture three minutes of improvisation,” says the reedist. Bloom then told her students to “transcribe what you improvised, and identify something you liked that could be a melody, bass line or harmony in a new composition.”

Lugerner adapted this approach using the Acapella app. Designed for singers to layer vocal parts, Acapella worked surprisingly well with his bass clarinet, allowing him to quickly layer melodies, harmonies, countermelodies, and bass lines against a built-in metronome. “Some of these turned out very cool and intriguing, some of them came out rushed and unfulfilling, but it got me in the habit of writing regularly again,” shares Lugerner.

After recording around twenty videos (many of which were posted on social media, for which he received encouragement from fellow musicians, friends and family), Lugerner decided to orchestrate his favorites in preparation for a recording date in June 2021, when the state of California reopened.

In Solitude builds on the “spirit of the slug” (as Lugerner calls it) first captured on the 2018 studio debut An Eight Out Of Nine, which featured instrumental covers of downtempo headbangers from Lugerner’s favorite indie bands. Five years later, SLUGish Ensemble centers more around Lugerner’s own voice – as a composer, as well as a bass clarinettist – but still leaves plenty of space for the talented ensemble to shine (despite the title, the recording session truly feels like the reunion that it was). Lugerner cites inspirations ranging from Steve Reich’s large ensemble works of the 1970s (Music for Mallet Instruments, Music for 18 Musicians, Variations for Winds) as well as what he calls “heavy West Coast-sounding hardcore-mathy-alt-rock.” He is speaking of bands such as Covet, CHON and his personal favorite, Floral (whom Lugerner saw live at SF’s iconic Bottom Of The Hill in March 2020, a week before shelter in place took effect).

What comes out on the other side is a cathartic body of music that’ll have jazz heads and indie-rockers alike bobbing their heads, always guessing what comes next. In Solitude is a roadmap – of SLUGish Ensemble’s range and slow and steady growth, of an all-too-relatable pandemic experience, and one of San Francisco’s treasured, off-the-beaten path neighborhoods.


released September 15, 2023

Steven Lugerner - Bass Clarinet, Baritone Saxophone, Alto Flute
Javier Santiago - Piano, Fender Rhodes
Steve Blum - Synthesizer
Justin Rock - Guitar
Giulio Xavier Cetto - Bass
Michael Mitchell - Drums

All Compositions by Steven Lugerner
Recorded at 25th St. Studios in Oakland, CA by Jeff Kolhede
Mixed by Jeff Kolhede
Mastered by Bijan Sharifi
Artwork by Hanna Rolinska
CD/Vinyl Design by Allie Blackman


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Steven Lugerner San Francisco, California

“An impeccably trained multireedist, with an emphasis on ‘multi’ — he plays clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe, English horn and flutes, along with saxophones…” (The New York Times) A Bay Area transplant to the NYC scene, multi-reedist Steven Lugerner maintains an active bi-costal performance schedule as both a leader and sidemen of various musical ensembles. ... more

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