Glenn Astarita

Glenn Astarita

Spanning several decades, progressive-jazz and improvisational icon Anthony Braxton has been no stranger to duet settings amid his large and small ensemble aggregations. Therefore, this 2-CD program recorded live in 1989 is the artist's fruitful collaboration with bassist Buell Neidlinger, noted for his work with Cecil Taylor, Steve Lacy, and educational duties at the New England Conservatory.

Based in Washington D.C., the musicians bring varied experience to the table amid stints with notable free-jazz artists, nouveau rockers, and prominent jazz-based improvisers. The duo's second album is an exploratory, yet affable excursion into parts unknown via the improvisational nature of the program. With fuzz-toned atmospherics, staggered flows and fleeting themes, the music offers a hearty forum for one's imagination to wander. However, there's uncanny logic within the grand schema, often devised on loosely based storylines, linear choruses and blitzing interchanges.

In the liners, producer Martin Davidson provides anecdotes, interview quotes and other relevant information surrounding the premise for these vintage tracks, recorded under the leadership of the late soprano saxophone great Steve Lacy.  Spanning previously unreleased and reissued material from 1967 through 1973, Lacy performs with iconoclastic modern jazz artists such as trumpeter Enrico Rava, vibist Karl Berger and others.   And in most instances, the audio processing is quite good as the album offers a comprehensive sampling of Lacy's avant-garde proclivities cast in various ensembles, including eminent synthesizer improviser Richard Teitelbaum who credits Lacy with being his..."first and maybe main improv teacher."  Otherwise, Teitelbaum partnered with Anthony Braxton and other progressive-minded luminaries to extend electronics formats into the freer aspects of jazz and improvisation.

Perhaps one of the more important drummers in global improvisation circles, Tom Rainey's discography as a sideman, for example, could read like a history of postmodern jazz, spanning conventional and nonconforming practices.  He's a fluid drummer who subdivides the rhythmical element into fragments while tap-dancing across the kit, shaded with lyrical qualities and offbeat digressions, as the list goes on.  On this trio date, he aligns with cutting-edge artists Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Ingrid Laubrock (saxophones), for a series of loosely designed improvisational jaunts, where space and counter-maneuvers are but a few of many rewarding attributes evidenced throughout.

One of the premier modern jazz trumpeters, Wallace Roney's Home fuses postmodernism with a classic 60's Blue Note Records stylization and touts the best of many jazz worlds on this superfine 2012 release.  Over the years, Roney has developed a stylistic realm of sound amid inferences to Miles Davis's bluesy intonations.  The band, including Roney's talented brother and saxophonist Antoine, glide through original compositions and works by renowned jazz artists.

With persuasive sonic assaults, ping-ponging stereo effects, and a web-like maze of improvisation, this trio tenders a modern psychedelic soundscape with avant-garde like tendencies. They shade the proceedings with a renegade New York City downtown aura, featuring phased-out guitar parts, booming bass ostinatos, pumping rhythms and dabs of chaos via the slow to medium-tempo grooves.

Volume 3 of influential trumpeter Dave Douglas's "Portable Series" casts yet another perspective of the artist's resiliency and broad vernacular.  The premise behind the three volumes, featuring different ensembles is based on informal gatherings, hearkening back to the olden days where musicians would align for pick-up sessions.  Otherwise, Bad Mango is not simply a high-octane bashing session, but offers a polytonal soundscape, spanning a diverse mix that is a nicely balanced package containing equal parts jazz and world music.  Neither genre supersedes the other, although an indigenous setting is laid out via the percussionists' multifunctional approach to the program.

Recorded May 4-17, 2010, at the historic Blue Note in New York City, this program is a baseline of sorts, framed on piano great Bill Evans' interminable legacy. However, one of the differentiators here pertains to the respective artists' signature voices. In other hands, a set like this may just fall into the retread bucket.

Many Dutch progressive-jazz musicians tend to inject dashes of humor into the grand scheme of things, evidenced by Talking Cows' witty and somewhat bawdy video on its website, also noted on the amusing album cover art.  Yet, the quartet takes a no nonsense musical approach and cuts to the chase with vigorous intent.  Vibrant and often multidirectional, they exude a persuasive small ensemble outlook with contiguous re-engineering processes and a brute force mode of execution.

Eminent improvisers, alto saxophonist/pocket trumpeter Joe McPhee and drummer Michael Zerang lay out an impressionistic series of abstracts, underscored by a New Orleans vibe on this session recorded live in the Crescent City at Big Top.  They navigate through seedy streets, yet exude hope and a variety of emotive characteristics while sustaining a great deal of interest throughout.  Passionate, significantly creative and synergistic, the duo launches the festivities with the 24-minute piece "Congo Square Dances/Saints and Sinners."