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Blue Lotus

by New Muse 4tet

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Blue Lotus 07:41
Awakening 05:39
City Echos 07:04


“The members of New MUSE4tet rocket us into the fourth dimension on this beautiful invitation to openness. Their sound is larger-than-life, and a remarkable reflection of life itself: bold, startling, adventurous, madcap, terrifying and tender. Their debut project careens across the planet in a blazing mix of styles, from jazz and swing to avant-garde and furious funk, with nods to the glorious traditions of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and, always, Mother Africa. These 21st century messengers of enlightenment, engagement and healing are firmly rooted in the wisdom of the ancients. But they also pose the fundamental questions we ask ourselves today. What a wonderful source of meditation and artful inspiration and celebration they are, in this world and beyond.” 

—Grammy Awarding-winning producer Leo Sacks

Overall, Blue Lotus is a journey into unfortunate but familiar territory. It recants a dark history and calls for solutions to social problems that frankly shouldn’t exist. More than the message, the music presents as improvisation but plays out like a composition. Laster’s genius is undeniable and New Muse 4tet only amplifies this fact, making for a meticulously formulated social justice piece distinct from the freedom songs known and loved.
- Jasmine Ivana Espy, I Care If You Listen

These days, it’s good to remember that music with the aim of social activism need not fall into one narrow form of expression. While there is something undeniably satisfying about protest music that sounds like an actual punch to the face, there’s also an essential role for music that reminds us of our potential to become our better angels as we call out societal wrongs. Blue Lotus, from the string quartet of violinists Gwen Laster and Hsinwei Chiang; violist Melanie Dyer; and cellist Alex Waterman is a welcome example of the latter.
- Dave Sumner, Best New Jazz on Bandcamp February 2021

Blue Lotus is an album with weight; emotionally heavy, stylistically dense, and technically brilliant, there are layers-upon-layers to unfold and unpack. Gwen Laster pushes through boundaries and easy classification to craft a moving, original album that finds as much in common with modern classical as it does blues and even free jazz. Laster and the New Muse 4tet are fearless and in that mindset find the freedom to leave this lasting mark.
- Brad Rose, Foxy Digitalis

Recorded by New Muse 4tet - A string quartet founded on principals of performing 21st century works and original music as a vehicle for social activism.

All music on Blue Lotus is composed by Gwen Laster.

The title track "Blue Lotus" is dedicated to the artistic genius of Geri Allen (RIP).

"Awakening" was composed to the poetry of Claudine Rankine's "Citizen: An American Lyric,” for an anti-racism worship service.

"City Echos" features tabla player Ehren Hansen and depicts the mood and energy of urban sounds.

The final three tracks recorded are the Black Lives Matter Suite. Commissioned by Arts Mid Hudson, the first movement, "Cigarette," is dedicated to justice for the Sandra Bland tragedy.

Movement two, "Three to Eleven," remembers Samuel Harrell - an inmate whose life was taken by correction officers at the Fishkill, NY correctional facility.

"Entrapped" completes the suite and features Poet Gold's spoken word about the Newburgh Four, victims of an FBI informant who entrapped four young Black men from Newburgh, New York in a conversation to blow up a Synagogue in Riverdale, New York.

Musicians: Gwen Laster, Hsinwei Chiang - violin., Melanie Dyer, viola. and cellist Alex Waterman.  All tracks composed by Gwen Laster. 

Narrative on Entrapped written by Poet Gold and Calandra Hackney.

Recorded at Bard College recording studio Annandale on Hudson, New York

Engineered by Crawford Brown at CBB Sound

Mixed and Mastered by James Dellatacoma at Creative Music and Audio, West Orange, New Jersey

Cover painting Lois Maliou Jones' "Initiation Liberia." Used with permission by the Smithsonian Institute

Graphic design by Sylvain Leroux.

Gwen Laster is a nationally acclaimed musician who has been the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts, Jubilation Foundation, Puffin Foundation, Arts Mid Hudson, Lila Wallace, and the Cognac Hennessy 1st place Jazz Search. She's a native Detroiter whose creative influences come from the Motor City's exciting urban and classical music culture. Gwen started improvising and composing because of her parent’s love of jazz, blues, soul and classical music and her inspiring music teachers from Detroit's public schools.

​Laster relocated to NYC after earning two music degrees from the University of Michigan. She began collaborating, performing and recording with internationally-known creative and commercial artists including Anthony Braxton, Nona Hendryx, Aretha Franklin, Wadada Leo Smith, William Parker, Danny Elfman, Sun Ra Arkestra, Tyler the Creator, Gladys Knight, Emeline Michel, Andrea Bocelli, David Foster, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Shaggy, Andrew Baba Lamb, Natalie Cole, Solange, Mark Anthony, and J Lo and Shakira at President Obama’s Inaugural Neighborhood Ball.



released February 26, 2021

Gwen Laster - violin, composition
Hsinwei Chiang - violin
Melanie Dyer - viola
Alex Waterman - cello


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Gwen Laster / Gameboard Beacon, New York

A native Detroiter whose creative influences come from the Motor City's burnin’ urban and classical music culture. She’s won major performance, commissioning and teaching grants from the NEA, ASCAP, Arts MidHudson, first place, $10,000 award from Cognac Hennessey Jazz. Collaborations include Anthony Braxton, Nona Hendryx, Aretha Franklin and Natalie Cole. Full album "Gameboard" coming in 2016. ... more

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