by: Hobert Taylor
Nels Cline Singers - Macroscope - (Mack Avenue)
Guitarist Cline (Wilco, Thurston Moore) has been dancing on the edge of avant garde jazz/electronica/art music a la an updated King Crimson/Adrian Belew for a while, and this latest outing of trio music (Scott Amendola Drums, loops, percussion, Trevor Dunn, basses, effects, with various special guests), is glorious controlled chaos. "The Wedding Band" with backward masking, electric mbira, prepared lap steel, and congas is the bastard child of Boulez and Congotronics. "Red Before Orange" re-defines the mellow tones of lounge. And oh, while normally the singers don't sing, Cline provides deeply evocative vocals featuring unfixed tonality and meditative chanting on the title cut "Macroscopic". And then there's the indescribable "Sascha's Book Of Frogs", a reason for radio to exist.
Peter Epstein Quartet - Polarities - (Songlines)
From the Ornette of American neo classical jazz wing comes this reverent and sensitive expansion of consciousness. Saxophonist Epstein along with Ralph Alessi, trumpet, Sam Minaie, bass, and the drmmer Mark Ferber supply cool crescendos that stalk these tunes like disembodied shadows. In turns melodic and chaotic, reflective and abrasive, this music is a appeal to the soul and the mind. Faves, "Tiny Exploding Universe", "E-Mail from Nigeria", the gorgeous "Forever Now" and especially "Hurtle".
Mack Avenue Super Band - Live From The Detroit Jazz Festival - (Mack Avenue Records)
Lots of artists from this label with a special guest star vibraphonist Gary Burton showcase their talents on this jam at last year's Detroit Jazz Festival. The band features pianist, Aaron Diehl, leader and bassist Rodney Whitaker, rising star trumpeter Sean Jones, Kirk Whalum and various others. Pretty much safe as milk, only Burton, Diehl and Jones stretch out. Sometimes this borders on smooth jazz, which is to say boring stuff, but "Blue Nude" and Burton's inspired reading of Chick Corea's "Senor Mouse" really stand out.
Mitch Shiner and The Bloomingtones Big Band - Fly - (Patois Records)
From the Indiana Unbiversity Jazz Studies program in Bloomington comes this slightly left of center re-invention of the big band. Often they are a bit stilted, but they are ambitious and sometimes take pop music and knock it on it's ear i.e. Miley Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball and Burt Bachrach's "Raindrops...". Shiner's own tunes are workable and pleasant but pretty academic, however his "6:20 Shuffle" is a freight train headed right for you.
Ritmos Unidos - Ritmos Unidos - (Patois Records)
Latin/Caribbean all star band Ritmos Unidos simmers , the pot not quite boiling over. Hypnotizing melodies and insistent syncopation leads to the promise of potential melodic resolution. The heart of the CD is the subtly swinging "Ochun Suite", cuts # 2,3,and 4, which should be played as a piece. The Wes Montgomery cover "Road Song" swings as does their nice Afro Cuban take on Wayne Shorter's "Water Babies".