New album brings second coming of Jay Pun and Morwenna Lasko


Longtime local duo Morwenna Lasko and Jay Pun offered C-VILLE a sneak preview of tracks from their new album, Chioggia Beat.

There’s been a whiff of mystery about the second album from guitarist Jay Pun and violinist Morwenna Lasko ever since Feedback first started putting noise into newsprint. For years, Feedback would run into Pun on the Downtown Mall and receive an update about this track or that, or catch hints of material not included on the pair’s 2005 debut, Etopia—songs like “Machine Gun,” which Lasko shreds through the center with a triplet-chop from her bow that could put an Iron Chef to shame.

Well, the suspense ends next Tuesday, October 6, when Pun and Lasko celebrate the release of Chioggia Beat with a night of music at Live Arts. Tickets for the show are available for $15 at Sidetracks Music, and The Honey Dewdrops will drop in from Scottsville for a 7pm opening set.

Mercifully, the suspense ended earlier for Feedback. Last week, Pun and Lasko invited me to producer Jeff Romano’s new Jimmydog Studio to hear Chioggia Beat on Romano’s speakers and to talk about the material, song-by-song. Which proved more amusing than one might expect.

For a pair of Berklee College of Music grads with serious chops, Pun and Morwenna are incredibly playful with their music. They use puns for song titles (the name of the title track, “Chioggia Beat,” is taken from the beets that Lasko grows in her garden; “One Moore” is for Dave Matthews Band’s fallen saxman and features DMB trumpeter Rashawn Ross). They have hilariously particular tastes in snacks (Haribo brand gummi frogs). Irreverent facts are thrown out between songs: “Did you know that it takes six minutes to make a Peep?” Lasko asks.

And through the course of its 11 tracks, the pair’s melodic twists and genre mash-ups are similarly playful—the mix of fibrous electric guitar and Thomas Lasko’s accordion on opener “Sheba’s Tea” come to mind, along with Lasko’s live tête-a-tête with drummer Johnny Gilmore towards the album’s end.

But it’s a very mortal mirth. For all the work that Pun and Lasko do to tie together worlds of style and loads of musicians with local connections (Ezra Hamilton—where you been?), their most impressive feat is to find a uniquely celebratory spirit for friends and family that died, many during the recording of the album. LeRoi Moore is here, of course, but so is the son of a longtime friend (“Atip Ouypron”), a Lasko family pet (“Koby’s Tune”), a mentor (“Into the Hedges,” for guitarist Michael Hedges) and Pun’s mother, who died eight years ago (“Mama”).

It’s so many spirits in one room, in fact, that Romano opened the sound of the album for the penultimate track, “One Moore.” “Jeff said that it should reach the heavens,” Lasko says. The intensely percussive playing that structures the rest of the album falls away a bit, Lasko runs the full length of her frets and the room expands to accommodate everyone.

And then, with a sip of his beer and a few more gummi bears, Romano plays the last track, a positive ripper called “Live Wire,” and things get a bit lighter.

Not easy being green

Last week, a crew featuring LOOK3 Exhibitions Director Will May and Workshops Director Andrew Owen managed to hang a 36′ photo by LOOK3’s co-Executive Director Nick Nichols on the elevator shaft of the Market Street parking garage.

The image recently ran in National Geographic magazine, but not quite on this scale—one-tenth of the actual tree’s size. Heavy lifting, but heavy results—check the Feedback blog for photos of the event.