Fungible Insights

Jazz on the fringe, even when it hopes to end up in the middle

MARK WHITECAGE & THE BI-COASTAL ORCHESTRA
BushWacked: A Spoken Opera
Acoustics

Except for one lyric written in 1776, the spoken words come from news reports, but they rivet your attention. The intent is outrage, but I find the words, so unflinchingly rooted in the real world, calming—compared to the anarchic jazz swirling around them. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

LINCOLN CENTER JAZZ ORCHESTRA
Don't Be Afraid . . . The Music of Charles Mingus
Palmetto

This became inevitable once flacks tried to draw an orchestral line from Ellington to Mingus to Marsalis—otherwise, wouldn't Mingus be a bit too outré for the uptown crowd? Mingus has yet to develop into a repertory staple, at least outside of the official tribute bands Sue Mingus rides herd on, and even there recent albums like I Am Three suggest they're running on fumes. What's missing from all the remakes is Mingus himself—the virtuoso bassist, of course, but more importantly the leader who drove small bands to play huge. Here 15 musicians play small. At the end of the tricky title piece about the clown, they even laugh small. B MINUS


Honorable Mention

DOMINIC DUVAL/MARK WHITECAGE
Rules of Engagement, Vol. 1
Drimala

No agitprop, just bass and reeds, a starter kit without the racket.

RANDY REINHART
At the Mill Hill Playhouse: As Long as I Live
Arbors

Trad jazz teamwork—Kenny Davern, Dan Barrett, and John Sheridan are friskier than on their own recent albums.

SAM RIVERS/BEN STREET/KRESTEN OSGOOD
Violet Violets
Stunt

Old times only easier, so reminiscent of his ’60s grace it could be a self-tribute.

BAYASHI
Rock
Jazzaway

Norwegian avant-sax trio—two vets dating back to George Russell days, and TDWR drummer Thomas Strønen.

JOE FIELDER TRIO
Plays the Music of Albert Mangelsdorff
Clean Feed

And, finally, simplifies the avant-trombone master for much needed clarity.

BILLY JENKINS
When the Crowds Have Gone
Babel

. . . you’re alone, just guitar and harmonica, crying like Blind Willie Johnson without even the Lord for comfort.

DOMINIC FRASCA
Deviations
Cantaloupe/Serious Music

Guitar minimalism, the patterns expanding harmonically rather than repeating ad absurdum.

JOEL FUTTERMAN/ALVIN FIELDER/IKE LEVIN TRIO
Resolving Doors
Charles Lester Music

Piano-sax roughhousing, refereed by an AACM drummer who keeps both sides swinging.

THE ONUS
Triphony
Hipnotic

Darryl Harper’s clarinet trio is a marvel of studied moderation, searching but not rushed, long but not wearing.

TRYGVE SEIM
Sangam
ECM

Large group, the deep horns, accordion and strings move slowly in thick layers of harmony.

PAUL MOTIAN/BILL FRISELL/JOE LOVANO
I Have the Room Above Her
ECM

Lovano’s ballad sense is suspect, but he adds substance to Motian’s slow abstractions.

JOE GIARDULLO
No Work Today: Nine for Steve Lacy
Drimala

Meditations on solo soprano sax—a real tightrope act.

HAMID DRAKE & ASSIF TSAHAR
Live at Glenn Miller Café
Ayler

Two-thirds of Lost Brother takes its avant-honk on the road.

GEORGE COLLIGAN’S MAD SCIENCE
Realization
Sirocco Music

More organ than synth, more drums than beats, so the advance starts from further back, trading Grant Green for Tom Guarna.

JULIUS TOLENTINO
Just the Beginning
Sharp Nine

Fancy hard bop with Jeb Patton piano and extra brass, sandwiched by originals celebrating Parker, lamenting Jacquet.

MARK WEINSTEIN
Algo Más
Jazzheads

Flutes, chants, hand drums, soft homespun Afro-Cuban roots.

RAKE-STAR
Some Ra
Spool/Line

Canadians who look and sound like they just arrived from Saturn.

THE PETER BRÖTZMANN CHICAGO TENTET
Be Music, Night
Okka Disk

Mike Pearson’s reading of Kenneth Patchen poetry provides a dry counterpoint structuring the avant-noise.


Duds

JAMIE CULLUM
Catching Tales
Verve/Forecast

NNENNA FREELON
Blueprint of a Lady: Sketches of Billie Holiday
Concord

DAVID MURRAY 4TET & STRINGS
Waltz Again
Justin Time

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