Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Matthew Shipp Trio, Elastic Aspects

The Matthew Shipp Trio today are a group like no other out there. Why? Because each of them have played through the bumps and jolts of the initial dues-paying period and ultimately triumphed as players of themselves. Surely there are influences, but as you listen to their new recording Elastic Aspects (Thirsty Ear 57202.2) you hear a group of artists who have become tempered in the fire of the scuffle to become their own instruments of expression. Matthew probes and hammers out his own vocabulary, new thing, repeating figures, harmonic-melodic vertical-horizontal aspects that come out of roots and branch upwards, rhythmic diversity, inside-the-piano extensions. Michael Bisio prods the bass with punctuated hammering, walks smartly like he is sure of the goal, plays arco with an individually distinctive tone and projective phrasing and fits into the group situation with his own version of what to do. Whit Dickey has his own version, too, in his case of the drum tradition and how it can be extended, whether it be in the playing time mode or with cascading freedom, and the grey areas in between.

There are 13 improvisational excursions on the album, each distinct. There are unaccompanied solos, duets and full trio segments. They fit together as pieces of what is NOW. In the end you get a very creative take on the new piano trio and how, in Shipp and Company's hands, it goes where it will and owes nothing to anybody. You can build, they seem to say, your own musical personality as individual and as a group in the full heat of the battle to survive and prevail. They do that here.

It is one of the important piano trios operating today. You cannot afford to miss them.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Baloni, "Fremdenzimmer:" Trio Improvisations in an Abstract Mode

Some improvisational music today, especially that coming out of Europe, has roots more in "new music" than it does in Bird or Bud. There is a distinct enough sub-genre there that Bob Rusch has dubbed the entire overarching musical category "creative improvised music." It's another aspect of the debate on the use of the term "jazz" and I personally can't say that there is an easy answer to any of it--other than to say that if you remove the identity politics element, there is a continuum between modern jazz on one end and new music on the other, with rock and electronic influences in the middle. This is just so. Let us give credit to those who deserve it and reserve condemning any of it if it doesn't fit in with the ends or middle of the spectrum. The debate may be an assertion of identity in times when almost nobody playing undiluted improvisational music is financially solvent unless they teach, at least over here in North America. I think that's the principal defining impetus behind everything. Now I could be wrong but what matters to me is music first of all. The rest is always a huge factor in social life but not on the musical level in some ultimate sense.

So today we have a trio called Baloni who falls most definitely into the new music side of the spectrum. They play an abstract sort of chamber trio music that flows nicely, has musical high points and engages fully the creative ideas of each of the players.

The album at hand is Fremdenzimmer (Clean Feed 237). Baloni is Joachim Badenhorst on bass clarinet, clarinet and tenor, Frantz Loriot on viola and Pascal Niggenkemper on doublebass. They play eleven improvisatory pieces, some longer than others, but all showing very good inventiveness in the realm of spontaneous form, with compositionally pre-planned ideas coming in at times as well, apparently.

It's music that one who doesn't know already what is being attempted will find puzzling. Those people need to be educated and our media (Statewise) has no doubt no intention of ever addressing the issue. It's part of world culture, part of our culture! It's something we should be proud to know. Not, as we've seen, according to barbaric money-changer media moguls that control most of the airwaves. A pity. A crime. No, they say we should be concerned with who is wearing what crazy gown at the Oscars. Even though not as many are going to the movies these days. Who actually saw the winning pictures at a theater? Well I suppose that shouldn't matter. Nonetheless the same old pap prevails in our unregulated cultural mass-media lives. Stars have become much more important than what they actually do, if anything. Fabian and Tiny Tim should have given us a warning of what was coming? There are generations thriving now who never heard of either but nonetheless worship the latest equivalent of superficiality, the Tims and Fabians of 2012.

Do something about it. Listen carefully to this CD and other worthy examples in all the improvisational spectrums that prevail today. You'll be supporting people directly. You'll be all the richer in your cultural life!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Nicholas Biello / Manuel Weyand, Fourthought

Hard bop finds some enthusiastic and soulful adepts in Nicholas Biello and Manuel Weyand's album Fourthought (self-released). It's a quartet at work here--Biello on alto and soprano sax, Weyand on the drums, Cameron Kayne on the doublebass, Kerong Chok on piano. They do good blowing originals by Biello or Weyand, and an arrangement of "On Green Dolphin Street."

Biello has that McLean-Cannonball fire, Weyand plays in a well-schooled modern bop drum style, both in solo and timework, Chok accompanies and solos with creative authority in a post-Corea-Tyner-Walton sort of way and Kayne gets a nice sound and makes good note choices.

It's a very together disk with a reverence for tradition and no loss of fire and conviction. There are plenty of bands out there that try and revive this form of jazz. Few do it as convincingly as these folks. It goes there. It gets there!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kazhargan World, "Wonderful Times"

Kazhargan World is a cooperative unit made possible by the internet. Wonderful Times (Dewey Records) is the product of the cooperative project. The members discussed and arranged the music via electronic communication, then presumably recorded each part singly and synched them together as a finished product. The group consists of Stan Zaslavsky on piano, Hans Peter Salentin on trumpet, Cheryl Pyle on flute and recitation/poetry, Max Ridgway on guitar, Brian Mitchell Brody on sax, Sean O'Bryan Smith on the electric bass, and Tony Cimorosi on doublebass. And finally on drums and percussion is Alesandr Zaslavsky.

The album goes from a contrapuntal chamber jazz with interlocking piano, trumpet, flute and guitar against a swinging walk to more contemporary jazz-lyric-exotica, longing poetics from Ms. Pyle, and an overarching aesthetic of creativity.

The soloists work together well and sound quite good; their interchanges are most certainly a high point of the disk. The compositional elements are quite interesting and worth hearing too.

In the end you have a disk with some strikingly new ways to get somewhere, a lot of ground covered, excellent musicianship, good writing and arranging. The four-horn front line of Zaslavsky-Salentin-Pyle-Ridgway impresses.

It's a very pleasing album with plenty of substance to it. Give it a listen.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

No Milk Today

Thanks to my virus software, the time I would have spent writing today's review was instead spent watching the software update itself for an hour, which I suspect meant that it was stuck. It doesn't like when you turn off "automatic updates" and punishes you by demanding up to an hour of your computer time whenever if feels like it, then basically uses up all the memory and does nothing so far as I can tell. Grrr! See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Andrea Centazzo, Rain On The Borders: New Hybrid Sounds from the Mitteleuropa Orchestra

Andrea Centazzo the composer? Yes. He has in later years come to develop his music in a composi- tional direction and Rain On the Borders (Ictus 308) is a very good place to sample the orchestral component. The album consists of the title piece conducted by the composer, recorded in 1995, and several shorter works from 1986. Together they give a coherent and musically satisfying overview of some of this work.

"Rain on the Borders" has a minimalist post-Riley-Reichian motor periodicity to the opening section and then something more rhapsodic, yet also rhythmically active towards the end of the second half. Soprano Lia Lantieri and pianist Dennis Biancucci come over well in their solo parts.

The second half of the CD features jazz-tinged solo spots for Roberto Ottaviana, Carlo Actis Dato and Roberto Manuzzi. "Tiare" brings an attractive repeating and developing motif in the orchestra against a pulsating mallet ensemble."Tina Suite" has bold orchestration and some dramatic brass blocks against a pulsating rhythmic foundation.

The four part "Pasosuite" continues to unveil Centazzo's take on minimalism with dynamic malletwork against bold, brassy motif development.There's room for some fleet and out sax work, Mr. Dato sounding quite empassionaed and acrobatic.

The point though is that this is music that has excitement, beauty, contour and irresistible pulse. There is a muscular lyricism at work that is a hallmark of the Centazzo's style of this era.

A very invigorating listen! Recommended.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Francois Carrier-Michel Lambert-Alexey Lapin, All Out, 2011

All Out (FMR 321-0911) is just that. It's the free trio of Francois Carrier (alto), Michel Lambert (drums) and Alexy Lapin (piano) going at it full tilt. It's all about the notes, the flow, the intensity of inspired expression.

Francois sounds especially on top of it for this date. He plays an unending flurry of very together note-ing, spurred on by some excellent Alexey Lapin piano and the always lucid drums of Michel Lambert.

It's seventy-some-odd minutes of great free jazz. Carrier is at the top of his game and the trio is rather remarkably going All Out. Needless to say you really should hear it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tim Berne, Snakeoil, 2012

The best thing he's done in years. Tim Berne's Snakeoil (ECM 2234). It's a quartet. Tim on alto, Oscar Noriega on clarinet & bass clarinet, Matt Mitchell, piano, and Ches Smith, drums.

The music? It's a seamless integration of composition, improvisation, and compositional improvisation. There are six separate pieces that more or less flow together as movements in a single work. Chordal improvisations on the piano turn into a compositional-improv for alto and piano, drums come in, and it's on from there. Mr. Berne has put together music where the written and the improvised are so much of a piece that it has a continuous inspirational feel to it, where nothing is tossed into the mix that is not somehow a meaningful part of the whole. The harmonies sometimes modulate continuously so that pitch centers get multiple, Mitchell's piano part often has a centering role that the two reeds circle around and through, reeds improvising their way into another motif or two-part counterline, either of which sometimes seems to expand outward improvisationally and/or compositionally, the piano joining in obliquely or directly. Ches's drums can pulse or color according to the moment. He artfully sets off the music.

It's a remarkable work that puts an ellipsis where much improvised music puts a period or exclamation point. It is perpetuum mobile music at times--continually flowing outward only to find itself back where it was and outward again. Then next thing you know that figure regularizes into a series of riff-motives for a soloist to soar over.

This is music you should hear.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Eddie Daniels - Roger Kellaway Live at the Library of Congress

Here are two players who have gone their own way throughout their careers. Both Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway have roots in swing and modern jazz. They have formidable technical skills and impeccable musicality.

They joined together for some very lively clarinet-piano duets at the Library of Congress this past year. The album that resulted is logically called Live at the Library of Congress (IPO 1021).

It's a mix of standards and originals, done with freedom, exuberance and inspiration. These are two players who take advantage of their long seasoning to produce music that is primed and has a free-depth to it that comes after many years of practicing the improvisatory arts. And the interplay is pretty remarkable too. Two masters in their prime....

Very recommended.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Alexander von Schlippenbach - Globe Unity Orchestra, Globe Unity - 40 Years

In 2006 the venerable European Avant Big Band celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special appearance at JazzFest Berlin. That and a concurrent studio appearance were captured electronically for the release Globe Unity - 40 Years (Intakt 133 2007). Sometime around then when I had actual money to buy CDs this was one of my purchases. Being nothing if not systematic I am just now finding it at the top of my ancillary "to review" pile. I say all this only to explain why I am reviewing it a little later than I ordinarily would. As it's an important disk, better now than never seems to be applicable.

The 40th anniversary edition of the band has a stunning lineup of members associated with Globe Unity and the European avant scene. Of course von Schippenbach along with Wheeler, Schoof, Capozzo, Dorner, Evan Parker, Dudek, Petrowsky, Mahall, George Lewis, Rutherford, Bishop, Johannes Bauer, Lovens and Lytton.

The aggregate charges through some great charts by Herrs Schlippenbach, Breuker, Wheeler, and Lacy ("The Dumps").

There's nothing bad to say about this one. Some of the best in the free-avant fold pack a soaring, hard-hitting punch individually, collectively and compositionally. When the full band improvises as a whole, look out! And of course the churning rhythm section provides an everywhere-at-once cushioning for the advanced soloing that graces the soundstage.

This is a burner, a scorcher and flat-out out the window much of the time. There are many great releases one can sample of this band over the years. This is definitely one of them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Neil Cowley Trio, "Radio Silence" for Piano Trio Jazz-Rock

Piano trio acoustic jazz-rock? It's getting to be a kind of trend. You have the Bad Plus, Marco Benevento's Trio, the Shirts when they feel like getting into that mode, others. And there's the Neil Cowley Trio and their Radio Silence (NAIM 147) CD. Neil does the piano playing, Richard Sadler is on bass, Evan Jenkins on drums.

I suppose a lot of this started when the Jarrett trio got off on some rock-zoned excursions in the course of their otherwise standards-and-beyond stance. There was a prefiguration of that on the original Jarrett trio recordings with Haden and the late Paul Motian. And some early Joachim Kuhn trio work did sometimes go in this direction. But the groups that have been doing it don't necessarily take their playing out of the Jarrett or Kuhn "fake book" of style practices. Not all of them. Not even most of them. Neil Cowley's trio doesn't, anyway.

They do a mostly originals set here, far as I can tell. The group arrangements flow more naturally than perhaps the slightly more avant-ambitious Bad Plus. That's neither here-nor-there, I suppose. The pieces have memorability, the playing is together and the arrangements have a worked-out looseness that can be the hallmark of a worthy piano trio.

It's good music, well played. So if you like the rock piano trio idea, here's a fine example.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

David Arner, Solo Piano, Spontaneous Compositions, 1997-2001

David Arner is a special sort of new jazz, avant pianist, in that he has absorbed the jazz piano tradition and the innovators in that idiom over the years, has internalized the essence of that music, and emerged with a multi-dimensional take on the possibilities of going forward with the right sort of baggage in hand.

A good place to hear the multiple stylistic personalities of Maestro Arner is on the Dogstar CD release Solo Piano (Dogstar 0209), a seven-segment set composed of various live and studio performances dating from 1997 through 2001. There's post-Taylorian turbulence, inside-the-piano cosmicality and abstract angularity, delicate expressivity with child-like immediacy, bluesy testifying, and somber grandeur. It's a musically rich testimonial on David Arner the wide ranging pianist and fertile inventive musical thinker, Arner the structured improviser, the thoughtfully expressive spontaneous composer.

Excellent solo piano fare.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Phil Dwyer Orchestra, Changing Seasons

Changing Seasons (Alma 10252) covers in a little over a half-hour the four seasons. It is an ambitious work written by Phil Dwyer for his Phil Dwyer Orchestra, featuring the fine violonist Mark Fewer. Both the solo violin part and the work as a whole rather successfully straddle the fence between a vibrantly exuberant big band jazz sound and an orchestral classicism. Some of the tutti big band passages sound a bit on the generic side, a la the Jones-Lewis band of years back, and there is the occasional hint of the Gil Evans's touch. But the strength of the work is when that combines with orchestral writing and the very appealing fusoid solo violin performance.

The 35 minutes go quickly and there is much good music to be heard in that time frame. It's a very engaging listen. Bravo Mark Fewer, Bravo Phil Dwyer.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Duduka Da Fonseca Trio Plays Toninho Horta, 2011

Brazilian drummer Duduka Da Fonseca has the ability to swing a small group, quietly and thoroughly, whether it be in a sort of modern post-samba-samba style or other related rhythmic feels as called for. His piano trio of self with David Feldman piano and Guto Wirtti on acoustic bass is both a very appropriate vehicle for his artistry and a piano trio of note in its own right.

That is shown quite convincingly on his recent Duduka Da Fonseco Trio Plays Toninho Horta (Zoho 201115). Toninho's pieces are memorable and the trio lightly but pulsatingly moves through them with a kind of effortless, quiet fire and virtuosity that classic Brazilian trios have done so well (the Zimbo Trio being the most famous). Add Duduka's trio to that list and put them near the top.

It's pure brilliance, Brazilian-Style. I don't need to say more, except perhaps you would do well to hear this one!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Jimmy Owens, The Monk Project, Thelonius Monk for Septet

If nothing else is clear today (it is early here in New Jersey as I write this) we know that Monk's stature as a jazz composer and improvising artist has continued to grow since his death. His music is being played everywhere, by all kinds of artists. When the beautiful cat Jimmy Owens unleashes his fluegelhorn and trumpet in the service of Sphere, putting together a septet of all-stars and writing out some fresh arrangements, it is something to anticipate with pleasure.

Jimmy Owens's The Monk Project (IPO) is out. I have a copy in my hand right now. The anticipation was justified. It has at least three things going for it--nice arrangements, a great band and Jimmy Owens in excellent form.

So first to the arrangements. All but two are by Jimmy, and they are good. They freshen the vision, they put the pieces in a particular groove--like a blues shuffle for "Blue Monk,"--and they make good use of the four-horn-plus-rhythm configuration. A highlight is an arrangement of "It Don't Mean A Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing" transcribed from the Monk-Pettiford-Clarke Riverside Duke date and arranged for the larger forces by Jack Ramsey. The eight Owen arrangements get down to the essence of Monk without slavishly sticking to the original versions or the mid-sized group arrangements that came forth during Monk's lifetime. And though there are some of the perennial Monk classics, there are also some that are not as often performed, like "Bright Mississippi," "Stuffy Turkey," and "Lets Cool One."

The band: it's Jimmy with Wycliffe Gordon, Marcus Strickland, Howard Johnson, Kenny Barron, Kenny Davis and Winard Harper. All contribute in the singular and collective sense to make this a great sounding, swinging affair.

Lastly but not lastly, Jimmy Owens sounds just beautiful. He is in top form with that beautiful tone and great note choice.

So that's it. That's plenty to my mind.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tony Malaby's Novela: Interesting Larger Band Arrangements of Malaby Pieces by Kris Davis

Tony Malaby's recent release with his nine-member Novela group (Clean Feed 232) gives us a broader view of Malaby's music than might be typical of his recordings. The four-reed, three brass (including baritone sax and tuba) front line-up provides a rich mini-big-band sonance. Kris Davis arranges the Malaby pieces and plays piano. John Hollenbeck's drums add percussive drive.

All the Malaby compositions have been recorded previously on other albums. The new Kris Davis arrangements allow latitude, freedom and collective/individual solo time. And they present Malaby's musical ideas in very full sound.

The results are quite impressive. Malaby, Attias, Badenhorst, Hadro, Alessi, Gerstein and Peck make the horn section sing and effectively straddle the free limberness with the compositional structures invoked for each particular piece. Ms. Davis's arrangements give lattitude but also flesh out the critical melodic-rhythmic-harmonic scaffolding that supports and founds each piece.

It is excellent work, ambitious and exciting, well wrought and spontaneous at the same time. Very much recommended.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Remi Alvarez Quartet Live at the Vision Festival, 2011

New York's annual Vision Festival gathers together some of the very best new jazz artists for a week-long festival that once and (one hopes) for all realizes Charles Mingus's idea of putting forth an east coast festival that does for the disestablishmentarians what Newport every summer does for the main(stream) garde of the music. The Vision Fest is a place not to hear the usual names of conventional jazzdom, but rather those adventuous artists who are carving a path through the rock-cragged present to a new future of the music.

So when the Remi Alvarez Quartet took the stage last year, they followed in the footsteps of the innovators who have gone before. The CDR/download album Live at the Vision Festival 2011 (Reconstrukt) makes clear to us (or me anyway) that they most certainly belonged there.

It's Remi on tenor and flute, Dom Minasi on guitar, Ken Filiano on contrabass and Michael T.A. Thompson on drums for a 40-minute set that sparkles and bristles with energy and invention. Maestro Alvarez has a great, slighty dark tone on the tenor and a bright flute sonority. He gives forth with post-Riverian-Aylerian chromatics that flow soulfully and logically. Dom brings texture and harmonically implied color into the musical palette of the group, suggesting tone-moods, expanding the backdrop of sound washes and freeing the music to flow into uncharted territory. Ken Filiano does much the same in ways in which he is well known to excel. Both Dom and Ken provide pitched counterpoint and solo energies that fit well into the proceedings. Drummer Michael T.A. Thompson frees the time and contributes well executed and inventive sound clusters from his set.

The sum total is some lively rebel music for a summer's gathering, a well-recorded high point of the year's festival. Grab it and you'll have something good to happily experience all year 'round.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Iskra 1903, "Chapter One", Paul Rutherford, Derek Bailey and Barry Guy in the Complete Recordings, 1970-72

Trombonist-pianist Paul Rutherford, guitarist Derek Bailey and contrabassist Barry Guy formed Iskra 1903 in 1970. "Iskra" is the Russian term for "spark", the "19" indicates the century they were in, and the "03" stands for the number of players involved. Chapter One covers the life of the outfit from 1970 through 1972, amasses the various released records the trio made for Incus and other labels, and includes some unreleased material as well (Emanen 4301). The three-CD set is a fascinating document, an uplifting listening experience and a bit of a landmark in avant improv loquaciousness.

All three by then had developed a vocabulary, a technical prowess in creating a music not of tonality and often not even of conventional tones. Bailey's prepared guitar and his unconventional use of harmonics and muted sounds formed a very original third of the tripartite orbiting of guitar, bass and trombone sound-color production. The trio used both amplified and acoustic versions of the instrumental output to further vary the timbral spectrum available to them. Each performance was an improvisation that maximized interactive dynamics in a music of semi-pitched and unpitched sounds.

They weren't the only ensembles doing this sort of thing over in Europe and there were overlapping affiliations with Evan Parker and others over time. Iskra 1903 were perhaps one of the most consistently productive units of the period and in their stylistic purity, one of the most innovatively radical.

Chapter One presents the trio in all their heady glory. The three disks give you a great deal to absorb, and not all of it is equally inspired, understandably. But the high points are exhilarating and at all times they strive with success to converse intelligently in a radical new music language. This is somewhat essential fare for those with an interest in the Euro-improv scene of those days. Recommended!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Paul Kikuchi, Portable Sanctuary Volume One

Percussionist Paul Kikuchi has been making some very interesting ambient-avant-cosmic improvisatory music of late and I have reviewed many of them across the blogs. There's a new one, Portable Sanctuary, Volume 1 (Present Sounds 1102) and it continues the development of his style. It's Paul on drums, percussion and electronics; the ageless trombone master Stuart Dempster; Bill Horist on guitar; Jesse Olsen Bay on percussion and guitar; and Alex Vittum on percussion and electronics.

This is music with and IN space. There are sparsely accompanied solos, more dense passages of electronics-enhanced sound sculptures, bell-gong percussion atmospherics, new music excursions of ambient tone-noise and group improvisatory essays.

Something like this works well if there is a group dedication to realizing a particular atmosphere and a keen attention to characteristic sound production at any particular point in an aural space. All that is very much in play on Portable Sanctuary, Volume 1. Bring on Volume Two! Recommended.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Landrus Kaleidoscope, "Capsule," Jazz-Rock from Bari-Bass Clarinetist Brian Landrus

Time marches forward and styles of jazz march alongside those of other musical genres in terms of a coterie of committed listeners, some hangers-on and those with a casual or newly minted appreciation of the music. Subsequently there are jazz releases that may appeal to some segment of jazz listeners, some just those with a casual involvement, some for the hard-core appreciator, and some, but very few, to all.

Brian Landrus fronts his Landrus Kaleidoscope on the recent CD Capsule (BlueLand 2010A) and provides a musical take that might possibly appeal to a greater spectrum of listeners than is the norm. It's jazz-rock with an electric-acoustic mix of keys and electric bass (Michael Cain), electric guitar (Nir Felder), acoustic bass (Matthew Paris), drums (Rudy Royston) and Brian on baritone sax, bass clarinet and bass flute. (See also my review of Landrus's previous album, posted June 13th of last year.)

It's the sort of thing that may appeal to those who like jambands, the jazz-rock fans and even some causal listeners who are flirting with the mainstream contemporary facets of the music scene.

What I like about this one is that it has a hard enough thrust to it that it cannot be accused of pandering to the sofa-bound slobs who crave a sort of muzak, it has decent soloing from all the usual suspects, and it is a music that is MUSICAL, not a kind of exercise in product creation. And Landrus's sound on the three lower-frequency instruments gives it a distinctiveness.

I do not know what the fate of music like this will be in some ultimate sense, in particular whether this album will capture the hearts of a great many, or even a fair quantity of people. I do know that it has that potential. And in the process it gives out with some music that is not at all vapid.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Scott Fields & Multiple Joyce Orchestra: Moersbow/OZZO

According to the Clean Feed website, Scott Fields wrote Moersbow/OZZO (Clean Feed 236) as two works that could be performed by at least 19 musicians, all of whom could improvise and read music. He recorded both works with a large outfit he calls the Multiple Joyce Orchestra. The CD at hand presents the fruits of that labor.

This is challenging music of an avant sort. It combines textured soundscapes, collective soloing and worked-out sequences that have a post-Braxtonian edginess at times.

No single instrumentalist is meant to dominate the proceedings. Instead a great variety of instrumental combinations come in and out of play more or less continuously.

It's a fascinating, successful, large-scale new music recital where the jazz and open elements combine and create a sonically rich result. It may not be a masterpiece of the new music, but it most certainly makes for a welcome addition to the scattering of existing works of its kind. Well worth a hearing if you follow the latest developments in the improv/new music nexus.

Wadada Leo Smith's Mbira, "Dark Lady of the Sonnets"

Wadada Leo Smith celebrated his 70th birthday last December with a commemor- ative multi-group concert at NYC's Roulette. I am sorry I had to miss it but it undoubtedly was yet another sign of how Wadada continues to be a vital force in today's music.

One thing I have not missed is his latest recording with the configuration Mbira, namely Dark Lady of the Sonnets (TUM CD 023). It's a smaller gathering, a trio with Wadada on trumpet and fluegelhorn, Pheeroan akLaff, drums, and Min Xiao-Fen on the Chinese lute pipa and vocals.

What is especially nice about this one is the chance to hear extended horn soloing from Mr. Smith. Mr. AkLaff holds forth extensively with his creative brilliance as a time, embellishment and freetime compositional-improv drummer of great inventiveness. Ms. Xioa-Fen plays some wonderful pipa improvisations/accompaniments too, her vocals have interest, and in many ways she brings an entirely new set of musical stimulants for the horn-drum sections to react and catapult against.

This is music of depth. Wadada sounds fabulous, whether pensive or brashly exciting. His tenure doing the Miles tribute thing (Yo Miles) gave him a handle on late Miles and how one could extend it. He's incorporated what he absorbed of his experience doing that so that now it is more and more an integrated element in the total matrix of the Wadada horn style. The compositional side of his music shows further development on this CD as well. It's all good.

A beautiful album....