When COVID-19 cleared Dominic Lalli’s 2020 touring schedule, the saxophonist finally found the time to revisit a long-dormant project. “The first thing on my mind was, ‘Let’s try to finish this album,’” the Colorado-based musician says of A Blind Man’s Blue, a new jazz recording that doubles as his solo debut.
Lalli recorded and almost completed A Blind Man’s Blue in 2010, but he ended up shelving the LP before it could be mixed and mastered in order to focus on Big Gigantic—his rapidly rising, organic-meets-electronic duo with drummer Jeremy Salken.
“I was almost finished with this album but, simultaneously, everything was really picking up with Big Gigantic,” Lalli recalls. “It was definitely a very unique time for me, and I really wanted to see what I could do with Big Gigantic and give it my all. I knew, in my mind, that everything that I put into Big Gigantic I would get back tenfold.”
Certainly, the gamble paid off. Since then, Big Gigantic has toured the globe, appeared on marquee stages at major events (Coachella, Ultra, Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits to name a few) and hosted their annual Rowdytown festival at Red Rocks, which has sold out annually since its 2012 inception. They’ve given back to their community too, launching the A Big Gigantic Difference Foundation in 2016.
Yet, despite his whirlwind performance schedule and prominence in the EDM world, Lalli—who also clocked in time with the world-music-inspired The Motet—never lost sight of his jazz roots. The 42-yearold musician first became interested in the saxophone while still in elementary school, and eventually used his talents to score a free ride to Northern Arizona University and earn a master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music. “John Coltrane was huge for me,” Lalli says. “I had my big, ‘I’m going to be a musician, and I don’t care what anyone says’ moment with a John Coltrane record. I listen to a lot of jazz and a lot of classical, but I also listen to a lot of other music, too. I like to have a lot of things happening in my mind, in terms of what’s inspiring me.”
Throughout A Blind Man’s Blue, Lalli is backed by his Bluebird Quintet—pianist Eric Gunnison, bassist Bijoux Barbosa, drummer Rudy Royston and trumpeter Greg Gisbert. All seven tracks offer threads of sadness and optimism, sentiments that now feel strangely in line with the current COVID-19- stricken world.
“It’s like you’re on a journey. It tells a story—A Blind Man’s Blue has this sad feeling to it,” Lalli explains. “The minor stuff is supposed to sound like what a blind man feels like while he is walking through his life. There is a blue tinge to everything because he is blind. But if you make it through to the end of the song, there’s this totally different section that’s all happy and beautiful and builds through a drum solo until it reaches this big, beautiful peaceful ending. That’s the blind man having this comfort with who he is as a human being—how he can’t see. There’s this beauty in that. A lot of my stuff is not necessarily [traditional] jazz, but it still takes you on a journey or evokes a particular mood.”
The LP includes choice covers of the Peggy Lee favorite “Golden Earrings,” George Gershwin’s “Love Walked In” and Miles Davis’ “Joshua.” Lalli hopes the selections will give his more electronic-oriented Big Gigantic fans a crash course in the jazz canon.
“I’m so glad that I finally got to put this out because I’m super excited for the Big Gigantic fans to be able to hear some different stuff from me,” Lalli says, adding that he fully intends to expand his jazz output in the future. “I want to do another jazz album with a little bit of a bigger ensemble. This one was with a quintet. Next time, I want to use a trombone player and maybe a guitar player, too. I have some plans to do some writing for that and already have some ideas. I’m excited to get back into the studio at some point next year.”
In addition to A Blind Man’s Blue, Lalli dropped the one-off single “Together” in mid-June, just as the pandemic dovetailed with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Intended to uplift those voices and acknowledge the huge debt the music community owes to Black creators, all proceeds from “Together” will directly assist the Black Lives Matter movement.
Lalli has also spent much of his quarantine enjoying the company of his one-year-old son, who may just have a music career of his own. “I have a little work station set up for him in my studio to make beats on a this little beat-making machine,” Lalli says with a grin. “It’s pretty darn cute.”
Meanwhile, he looks forward to the return of live music and bringing the worlds of Big Gigantic and A Blind Man’s Blue a little bit closer when he’s able to hit the road again.
“On tour, maybe I could do a jazz set early in the evening and then do my Big G set later,” he theorizes. “Or maybe I could even book an early jazz set, a late Big G set and then an after-party DJ set. I’d probably be a little tired, but it would be a very fulfilling day of music, that’s for sure.