The Raw Power of a Fresh Start

Pleasurable epitaphs, avant-garde daring, and wonder-filled immigrant songs

Powerhouse Sound
Oslo/Chicago Breaks

Another Ken Vandermark vehicle, or actually two. He wrote a batch of dedications to beats and raw power—evocations of Coxsone Dodd, King Tubby, Lee Perry, Burning Spear, Miles Davis, Hank Shocklee, the Stooges—and took them first to Oslo, then to Chicago. Nate McBride, in his Spaceways Inc. electric-bassist mode, made both trips. In Oslo, Lasse Marhaug's electronics plug into the rhythmic team of Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and Paal Nilssen-Love, a powerhouse platform for Vandermark's tenor sax. But the Chicago group has an extra dimension in Jeff Parker's guitar. Some Vandermark band names are obscure, but this one is just what it claims. A

Dud of the Month

Soweto Kinch
A Life in the Day of B19: Tales of the Tower Block

Kinch's previous Conversations with the Unseen littered its tasty sax-blowing with rap skits. This time he reverses the ratio, burdening both: The raps are saddled with an ambitious narrative concept that's peculiarly British and left waiting a second volume to resolve (not that you care), while the grime beats stunt the instrumentals. He's conscious enough that he has one character urging him to "put down the microphone and stick to the sax." But the irony is wasted in this shotgun wedding. B MINUS

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William Parker/Hamid Drake
First Communion + Piercing the Veil [2000]
[AUM Fidelity]

Riddim exercises and intimate exotica, doubling a studio reissue with a live warm-up.

Joe Morris/Ken Vandermark/Luther Gray
[Clean Feed]

Abstract guitar leads spur tenor-sax improvs recycling one piece six ways.

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet
American Landscapes 1

Big birds have deep, rumbling hearts . . .

Frank Carlberg
State of the Union
[Fresh Sound New Talent]

Framing a voiceover critique of (political) stupidity with somber free jazz, forcing musicians (and us) to think.

Avishai Cohen
As Is . . . Live at the Blue Note
[Razdaz/Half Note]

Fluid quintet showcases the bassist's songbook, plus funky "Caravan."

Phil Bodner
Once More with Feeling [1960s-'70s]

Prolific studio pro offers a taste of old-fashioned clarinet.

Tord Gustavsen Trio
Being There

Low-key, precise, sensible, satisfying—archetypal ECM piano.

Jason Lindner
Ab Aeterno
[Fresh Sound World Jazz]

Piano trio, transported with Afro-Latin beats, oud, and melodica.

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble
Hot 'n' Heavy

A quartet now, with Fareed Haque's guitar adding pan-ethnic groove to hot trumpet, heavy sax, and El'Zabar's pan-ethnic beats.

Dave Liebman
Back on the Corner
[Tone Center]

Redeems his Miles Davis debut by jettisoning the keyboards and trumpet.

Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid

If Hebden's laptop fails the Turing test for improv, it's for lack of competition.

Nicole Mitchell/Harrison Bankhead/Hamid Drake
Indigo Trio/Live in Montreal
[Greenleaf Music]

Fred Anderson's rough-tumbling rhythm section, iced with flute.

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet
American Landscapes 2

. . . which swell over time, pumping longer and louder.

Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy
Cornell 1964
[Blue Note]

A rough and amusing draft for Town Hall Concert and all those Euro bootlegs Sue Mingus fumes over.


Kenny Burrell
75th Birthday Bash Live!
[Blue Note]

History repeats, tragedy and farce in no particular order.

Kenny Garrett
Beyond the Wall

Crawling up Mount Coltrane, making fake vistas look painful.

p> Mark Murphy
Love Is What Stays

Lost his hip, leaving sensory deprivation and orchestral torture.

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