The majority of News? No News? is uptempo, post-Ornette / post-Ayler jazz with plenty of room for expressive and extended solos. The quartet comes out swinging on 'More Hello,' a good-natured but feisty tune that reminds me of something that Dewey Redman might have written. Ullmann wastes no time getting to the meat of his solo within the first dozen notes. Swell follows suit for his chorus, riding waves of turbulent drums and bass. The uptempo 'New York 5:50' is a somewhat introspective tune with a boppish rhythm and a humorous melody line stated by Ullmann's bass clarinet in tandem with Swell's plunger-muted 'bone. 'Planet Hopping on a Thursday Afternoon' has a similar rhythmic demeanor, but sports a positively lush melody line (kudos to Swell for this one!). The title track is quite distinctive and original; a gospel-derived lament set up as a canon between Swell's trombone and Ullmann's bass clarinet, underpinned by a swaggering post-bop rhythm. 'Airtight' opens with a virtuosic bass solo from Greene who introduces the trance-like ostinato that sets up Altschul's rocking polyrhythms. This piece, written by Swell, has a nice long melody line that provides a nice springboard for solos by both horn players. Altschul gets in a particularly spectacular solo here, as well.
On the group improvisations (GPS #1, GPS #2) and the ballad-like pieces ('Kleine Figuren #2, and the first half of the slowly coalescing 'Comosite #1), Greene and Altschul provide a wide range of sound colors and atmospherics. Though the group's interests clearly hew to the higher-energy end of the modern jazz spectrum, its essentially cooperative nature really seems to blossom during the CD's most abstract moments. No one tiptoes around - their playing remains forceful, aware, and sure-footed even in the most sparse and pianissimo musical settings. News? No News! is a thoroughly enjoyable, tough-minded slab of modern jazz listening pleasure for advanced sets of ears.