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Last Ark Out welcomes modern jazz fans aboard new album 'Lift'

Last Ark Out releases an album of music from their new video performance series.
Album artwork by Ivan Louey
Orange Grove Publicity
Last Ark Out releases an album of music from their new video performance series.

Last Ark Out have just released Lift, their second album of modern jazz-rock fusion with big beat funk drums, elastic electronic keys, sax and guitar punching up catchy compositions. This time, they also have a little assistance from a few talented friends.

The group was born in Vancouver, B.C. (with some splitting time in Montreal), with an early recording released in 2015. Lead composers Justin Gorrie (saxophone/guitar) and Arthur Pascau Smith (guitar) have become a tightly arranged unit with keyboardist James Huumo, bassist Jeff Gammon, and drummer Colin Parker.

Lift brought Last Ark Out back to the recording studio five years after their debut album Wake and, using remote recording skills developed during the pandemic, made room for several virtual special guests.

Many songs from the album were introduced with videos showing guest musicians like keyboardist David Osei-Afrifa, reeds player Hailey Niswanger, Snarky Puppy drummer Larnell Lewis, and others via stacks of monitors set up in the recording studio.

The resulting images cleverly employ modern visual and audio technology, but Last Ark Out made sure the priority was the songs themselves.

Engaging their visiting musical collaborators, Last Ark Out spent time diving into each guest's discography to create songs on which these musicians could easily express their talents.

Lewis’ propulsive prog-funk drumming powers early album single “Dyab,” while Niswanger provides multiple tracks of flute and authoritative tenor sax to the ballad/swinger “Libra.”

Osei-Afrifa adds a mix of acoustic and electric piano to the minor stomp of “Late to the Game,” which holds a catchy hook in the center of serpentine melody and harmony phrases. Smith’s effects-laden guitar solo echoes the synthetic side of the guest keyboardist’s adventurous solos.

Last Ark Out also received help on the financial side, receiving a Canada Council for the Arts Digital Now grant to fund the creation of the multimedia project.

Along with vital contributions from Sasha Berliner (synth vibraphone), Allison Au (saxophone) and Sarah “Drums” Thawer, Last Ark Out has put together a full boat on Lift. Hop aboard for a unique audio journey on the high seas of modern jazz.

The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Washington. LISTEN ON DEMAND

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Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.