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CD Feature/ Jon Regen: "Let It Go"

img  Tobias
This is the martyrdom and magic of life as a musician: You can have a debut release at the famous Bluenote club in your discography. You can be a Steinway artist. You have made it to Runner-Up in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, studied with legendary Kenny Baron and toured with acclaimed Kyle Eastwood. Stars like Andy Summers of The Police and Martha Wainwright are playing and singing on your new album. And yet, noone can save you from the torture of wanting, the cruelty of love, the solitude of a room after she’s left.

The duopol of complete fulfillment and a broken heart is what “Let it Go” is all about. It features Jon Regen at his most self-confident and relaxed, most fragile and pensive, effortlessly coming up with fluent melodies and plaintive chordings while drenching his prose in blood and numbing nostalgia devoid of extenuations, euphimisms or metaphors. It is utter nakedness and utmost immediacy which lends lines like “I can’t bring myself to take your number off my phone/ I’m here alone and thinking how to get you off my mind” their painful power, as trivial as they may read on paper.

It is also the final – albeit essential – link which still connects “Let it Go” to the world of Jazz. Of course, the line-up of Piano, Bass and Drums has a rich tradition to its credit and Regen’s lyrics, threedimensional and mantra-like, are built akin to instrumental soli, circling a nerve from various angles and with growing intensity until you realise that this seemingly oblique process is delineating the feeling with haiku-like precision. But for the largest part, these are to-the-point songs unashamedly rooting in Pop and Rock, a personal penchant Regen has freely admitted to in interviews leading up to this album.

This sensation is stressed by the diverse nature of the material. “Close to me” pulls the listener in with cyclic harmonies, strident guitar licks and subuded, monlithic chunks of Piano. “Something to hold“ slowly simmers on a dreamy Wurlitzer and brittle Cello, while “Interlude” breaks the group approach for two time-marking minutes of tender Keyboard strokes.

Purists will condemn this kind of eclecticism and approachability but the new openness in Regen’s work has nothing to do with reaching out to wider audiences, reflecting instead on a highly personal return to his early musical education. There is a more fundamental aspect to it as well: Ignoring the granite testament of the Blues for a second, only in Pop can you not only get away with revelling in eternal sadness but actually move your audience to tears with it: “Finished with this” and “I Come Undone” are the Bourbonbitter last songs that “The Last Song” refuses to be with its hopelessly hopeful lyrics.

Despite the star potential lending a helping hand, it is still the magnificent verses and glorious chorusses which put their stamp on this record – as well as Regen’s voice, which unobtrusively claims center stage shining like silken sandpaper. In a way, therefore, “Let it Go” is another manifestation of the mystery and magic of music: You can tour the planet, sell thousands of records and grace the covers of glossy magazines, but no marketing budget in the world could make songs about the torture of wanting, the cruelty of love and the solitude of a room after she’s left s sound this credible.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Jon Regen

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