A Lounge Lizards performance is the kind of show an actor could relate to: there’s a lot of waiting around before something happens. The music is either melodic and repetitive or endlessly searching, alto saxophonist and leader John Lurie bouncing along without necessarily leading or even commanding that the music reach a particular destination. In the long run, and it holds true on the new album “Queen of All Ears” (Strange & Beautiful Music), it’s rather unengaging.
Lurie, for starters, has seemingly never mastered his instrument, only its possibilities. He can turn emotions with a wail or a squeak, yet each time he moves the listener from point A to point B he rarely fills them in once he gets there. Funny as he is — and he rightfully chides the audience for talking too much — one has to wonder what he asks of his bandmates as they, quite naturally, follow by example. Too often the band would dwindle down to just a few members onstage playing ineffectual solos, the worst coming about midway through the two-hour show when a percussion interlude fell flat.
The Lounge Lizards’ music, dubbed “fake jazz” a decade and a half ago before Lurie had a downtown Gotham hipster presence, works best at its most cacophonous. The band at its best shows itself to be a tethered yet untamed unit, able to grind away at a well-written theme until it reaches an appropriate lift-off point. Using that as its m.o., it succeeds; freely wandering a soundscape or attempting to create a still, sonic bed it evokes little of anything, particularly interest.
Performances from this nine-piece band are as few and far between as its albums (seven in 17 years). The musicians intently attack their own instruments yet each remains distanced from the others, an element that will always keep this band from being true jazz.