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Black Flower, Magma (SDBAN)
What a welcome find. This Belgian quintet stirs together a compelling mix of trance-y loops, idiosyncratic percussion and, best of all, cheesy-toned organ (courtesy of guest artist John Ghost), which adds the primal flavor of Ethiopian jazz. An unmistakable African vibe courses through the music. A flute flutters and soars, trumpets and baritone saxophones pop in and out for short melody lines and quick solos, and the grooves run deep and mesmeric. Dare we apply that hackneyed term “psychedelic”? It fits.
Albert Ayler, Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings (Elemental Music)
Professionally recorded before an enthusiastic audience under a makeshift geodome in the south of France, four months before the volcanic saxophonist’s death in November 1970, Revelations does not represent peak Ayler. But it does capture his no-holds-barred approach to free jazz and music overall. The five-LP/four-CD set runs the gamut: impromptu blowing, Ayler classics like “Ghosts” and “Love Cry,” festive calypso-esque songs, along with ghastly singing and yodeling, and — least welcome of all — spoken-word segments and occasional soprano saxophone screeching by Ayler’s partner, Mary Parks. The cuts that showcase Ayler on tenor with a rhythm section fare best — no surprise there. Much of his playing carries the expected brawn, serration and ferocity, but there are quite a few surprisingly tender passages, as well.
Larry Goldings/Peter Bernstein/Bill Stewart, Perpetual Pendulum (Smoke Sessions)
The thoroughly conventional organ-guitar-drums jazz that this venerable trio delivers on its 13th album succeeds on the acuity of its individual players fortified by a connection built over three decades. A combination of originals and jazz standards (Ellington’s “Reflections in D,” Shorter’s “United”) makes up the 65-minute program. Organist Goldings and guitarist Bernstein favor limpid tones and fluid phrasing, nimbly supporting each other like the seasoned teammates they are. Stewart masterfully drives the band and rattles his kit a few times with concise, deftly constructed solos.
Club d’Elf, You Never Know (Face Pelt)
For 24 years, Boston bassist Mike Rivard’s loose-knit collective Club d’Elf has blended jazz, jam-band, funk, dub, Sufi, North African gnawa and a panoply of other styles into a stimulating brew. Their third studio album — amid a raft of live ones — is equally beguiling, walking the line between the familiar and the exotic. Sometimes the music soothes, sometimes it intoxicates. You Never Know is fusion music in the best sense of the word.
Jon Yao’s Triceratops, Off-Kilter (See Tao)
Trombonist-composer Yao drops the second album by his Triceratops quintet, with saxophonists Jon Irabagon and Billy Drewes again filling out the front line. Off-Kilter is far more composed and arranged than its 2019 predecessor, the splendid How We Do, rendering the new one busier and more studied. This leaves the soloists less room to breathe, holding them back from making fully formed statements. The five instruments make a pleasingly full sound, which is likely the result of Yao’s other gig as the leader of a 17-piece big band. Off-Kilter’s complexity and constant cycle of new melodies are impressive, but the music lacks emotional currency.
Eubanks Evans Experience, EEE (Imani)
Guitarist Kevin Eubanks and pianist Orrin Evans, who share Philly roots, join forces for a relaxed duo album that’s solid, if unremarkable. The pair tosses solos back and forth, each taking up bass duties from time to time. The first five tracks, recorded in the studio, are largely restrained — with occasional bursts of energy rising up, then receding. A five-minute section of Evans’ “Variations on the Battle,” one of two tracks recorded live in a club, displays the kind of unmoored abandon the duo is capable of. Eubanks lays down a nasty bass line then strafes the small crowd with a gutbucket solo. This album could’ve used more of that. - Eric Snider