Funk Fusion, Bebop Terrorism in New Jazz Records

Talents old and new throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks

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Spaceways Incorporated bassist Nate McBride sets up a steady, rolling platform for Pandelis Karayorgis's flights of pianistic fury by fetching seductive riffs from Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, and Hasaan ibn Ali. This Boston trio was originally formed to play in a rock club, churning out punk-Monk fusion with electric piano. Now, with the piano unplugged and McBride continuing to develop as a subtle (and grooveful) bassist, they've moved into something new: free-jazz boogie-woogie? A

Mostly Other People Do the Killing
Hot Cup

Leonardo Featherweight's liner notes introduce many of the jokes: leader Moppa Elliott emulating the "classic slap-style bass playing of Milt Hinton and Victor Wooten"; Kevin Shea's drums shifting from "Gene Krupa-esque tom-tom facility to Shaggs-style freedom"; trumpeter Peter Evans's "dog-whistle shrieks, Buddy Bolden quotes, and coffee-grinder tone"; saxophonist Jon Irabagon's knack for "seamlessly melding Najee and Zorn"; numerous references to "livestock at slaughter." Abbreviated "MOPDTK" and billed as a "bebop terrorist band," they rip up history and make it anew while reusing proven hooks. A

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin

The Swiss pianist moves his minimalist rhythmic figures along with the grace of his namesake outcast samurai, his ascetic awareness imagining an ecstatic groove but arriving at something more sublime. The six modules start sparse but gain weight as Sha's bass clarinet emerges from the shadows, lifting a group that improvises with the beat, not against it. A MINUS

Miles Davis
The Complete "On the Corner" Sessions

Six discs collecting 16 indecisive and inconclusive studio sessions at least explain why On the Corner was Davis's most disparaged album: The edits tried to force excitement out of a minimal funk groove that needed long stretches of time to breathe. Davis never watered his fusion down for the masses: They came to him, and he made them wait before frosting the groove with brief bursts of piercing trumpet. A MINUS

Jostein Gulbrandsen
Fresh Sound New Talent

Early on, the guitarist lurks in the background of his debut album, letting MOPDTK terrorist Jon Irabagon clear the field with slashing, scratchy tenor-sax thrusts. Gulbrandsen's licks accentuate, then insinuate. He turns the corner, though, with the Police's "Message in a Bottle," a slow refrain and crafty deconstruction turning the song into a distant memory. Finally, he emerges clearly in a closing duet with bassist Eivind Opsvik. A MINUS

Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette
My Foolish Heart: Live at Montreux

The dozens of albums that Jarrett's "standards trio" have released since 1983 blur together, but here the two Fats Waller pieces jump out, brightening the day. Jarrett is every bit as adept with "Four" and "Straight, No Chaser" and the inevitable ballad, and DeJohnette demonstrates why Jarrett has been stuck in his trio rut all these years: Who else would you rather play with? A MINUS

Rafi Malkiel
My Island

Latin jazz with all the bells and maracas, plus a few old-fashioned vocals; the songs are broken down by style and country, ranging from Brazil to New Orleans, with Cuba predominant. The leader is an Israeli trombonist whose island is Manhattan; occasionally, a klezmer vibe slips in. A MINUS

William Parker/Raining on the Moon
Corn Meal Dance
AUM Fidelity

Parker's lyrics can get preachy or just plain didactic, and singer Leena Conquest amplifies the slightest hint of gospel all too predictably. But his sweeping melodies lift them into the cosmos, and the avant-garde virtuosos in the band never wander: They fill in and extend so expertly (Lewis Barnes's trumpet stands out) that this might even be compelling as an instrumental. A MINUS

Art Pepper
Unreleased Art, Vol. 1: The Complete Abashiri Concert [1981], Unreleased Art, Vol. 2: The Last Concert [1982]
Widow's Taste

Widow Laurie Pepper lays claim to a pair of bootlegs, recorded at a time when the great alto saxophonist was walking dead but playing miraculously. At Abashiri, even Art is taken by his "Body and Soul," proclaiming it "one of the nicest things that I think I've played in my life." He closes with a hard-swinging clarinet feature: "When You're Smiling." Can't help but. A MINUS

Alvin Queen
I Ain't Looking at You
Enja/Justin Time

A journeyman drummer (who broke in with Wild Bill Davis, then graduated to Horace Silver and George Benson) emerges from the trenches with messengers who fuse the best of soul jazz and hard bop: groove from Mike LeDonne's B3 and Peter Bernstein's guitar, two-horn fireworks from Terrell Stafford's trumpet and Jesse Davis's sax. A MINUS

Louis Sclavis
L'Imparfait des Langues

I can't find a thread that ties this record together. Working with a familiar drummer and three upstarts—Marc Baron on alto sax, Paul Brousseau on keyboards, Maxime Delpierre on guitar—it's as if the veteran clarinetist is just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. It pretty much all does: electronic drones, free sax riffing, rocksteady beats, airy meditations, noisy fusion—the sounds of tradition passed down and blowing back. A MINUS

Joan Stiles

Twice she sings, but her focus is piano jazz, which she organizes as a pyramid: Mary Lou Williams is her special interest; Ellington and Monk are her guiding lights; Fats Waller, Ray Charles, and Jimmy Rowles provide further amusements. She writes things like "The Brilliant Corners of Thelonious' Jumpin' Jeep" to stitch it all together, but what moves this beyond concept is the dream band she commands in units from duo to sextet: Jeremy Pelt, Steve Wilson, Joel Frahm, Peter Washington, and Lewis Nash. A MINUS

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