Chicago has had an experimental streak in its jazz for some time, with classic free jazz masters (like the Art Ensemble of Chicago) built from the electric blues that hailed from the city. A.J. Kluth's second outing for OA2 shows a new combination of Chicago influences. With a focus on space, pacing, and timbre more than melody, Anvils and Broken Bells manages to become a sonically interesting set. The horns may honk their way through a piece's opening in tandem, but eventually a melodica, with its almost backmasked sound, comes into the scene. A thrashing drum fill changes the pace, and an electric guitar takes over for the rest of a piece. Then, the whole system is reset, wound up, and put back into motion for a new round. The bandmembers work together solidly on the set, all following the composition leads, and all contributing to the controlled chaos that each piece demands. Kluth himself makes headway on the sax, often in tandem with James Davis' trumpet, but the real star of the proceedings is guitarist Toby Summerfield, who evokes bits of John McLaughlin in his electric flights, powering the pieces into and through massive crescendos of sound and leading them into quiet dissipations. It's experimental, it's brash, and it's excellent modern jazz.
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AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg