Composer and bassist Doug Lofstrom has been composing prolifically since the 1970s. His diverse scores reflect his ongoing involvement in theater, dance, film and symphonic music. In the 1990s, he was composer-in-residence for the Metropolis Symphony Orchestra and during the 80s, musical director of Chicago?s Free Street Theatre. His works have been performed by the St. Louis, Atlanta and Oregon Symphony Orchestras, and the Present Music and CUBE chamber ensembles. In 2001, Lofstrom formed The New Quartet, a versatile chamber ensemble which performs his original music and arrangements of modern classics, jazz and world music. He is currently on the music faculty of Columbia College in Chicago, IL. I am quite familiar with Columbia College and, for many years, their school of music has specialized in performance and composition that crosses stylistic lines and ? in some ways ? lies outside the world of ?typical academic? composition. For that, I am largely grateful.
Doug Loftsrom?s music does, indeed, sound like a sort of blend of influences that have their roots in world music, jazz and film. These scores are really quite entertaining to listen to. The two movement oboe Concertino, for example, is chock full of pretty long line melodies that are, frankly, openly cinematic in their sound. The orchestrations are similarly lush, uncomplicated and direct. Much of the first ?part? (in the composer?s parlance) has a bit of jauntiness to it, much like a sea chantey or the like. This is a brief work; clocking in at under ten minutes but is great fun to listen to.
Loftsrom?s harp Concertino bears similar qualities, actually, with some very pretty and characteristically ethereal writing for the harp and a skillfully written wistful accompaniment that never buries the delicate solo line. Here, too, there are fun melodic moments and an overall sound that really does sound like a film score. I especially liked the plaintive second part with its somewhat English sound (although it does have a section that uses Greek rhythmic patterns), providing some nice contrast to the buoyant opening. This work, too, is short (just under eleven minutes) but makes a nice impression.
The Plumed Serpent for chamber orchestra is quite different from the two Concertinos. Loftsrom considers this work basically a ?jazz concerto? for quintet and orchestra. There are many moments when the jazz influence is clear, especially some nice cadenzas for soprano saxophone. Existing in four parts over twenty minutes, this work is built around the mythology of the Quetzalcoatl ? the ?Plumed Serpent? in Mayan lore of the title. The second movement contains some nice jazzy sax and trumpet material and the subsequent movements have some strong moments for piano, drums and Flugelhorn. The programmatic issue with the plumed serpent is clear mostly in the form of some Mexican/Latin influences. I think this is an attractive work of jazz-classical crossover and has some great appeal. My personal favorites are the two concertinos, however.
While I am familiar with Columbia, Chicago, and have heard of Doug Lofstrom I had not heard his music before. His output really does reside in a sort of populist vein and makes a strong contribution to that genre. I do not see this music as striving to compete with the straight up ?contemporary classical? scene, and nor should it. It is quite fun and pretty impressive for what it is and I enjoyed it.
Kudos to the performers on this disc who are mostly Chicago area pros and who have some connections to Columbia. This is a well-recorded disc with excellent performances. I think you would enjoy this!