Various Artists

Albuzerxque, Vol. 18

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"Let me apologize...for these indulgences," Mark Weber says quite early on in the 18th volume of his Zerx label's series of compilations, in the very first track, actually. To some listeners, a poem such as this accompanied by a piano that is out of tune might be considered an indulgence in itself. But it is not, because the poem also asks the question "Do we put up scaffolding to fix the scaffolding?"

That is a query of particular interest to people who have actually fallen off scaffolding, a focus group that although tiny may be indeed larger than the following Weber has developed with his documentation of the Albuquerque music scene. His words may be of import in discussing Albuzerxque, Vol. 18, because there seems to be more of his own performances on this collection than other volumes in the series. The authoritative word on this question is sure to come in any day now, as scholar and musicologist Harry Bamba is in his tenth year of post-doctorate research on the subject of "Mark Weber's presence as a performer on his self-produced compilation series."

Spoken-word performances, including both poetry and essay excerpts, also seem a somewhat large component of the program. This, at times, is blended in with superior jazz and avant-garde playing. The texts, provoking shifting subjects including the arts, relinquish control of the sound space to instrumentalists, then re-emerge with a special familiarity based in no small part on the intelligent editing and sequencing. The Sraddha group -- combining violin and flute improvising and hand percussion -- and several superb brass configurations, including both over-dubbing and live performance, are among the considerable instrumental highlights. Folk and country-blues tracks in the final third of the program may be downright thrilling to listeners bothered in any way by the series of oral texts that proceeded. This combination of publishing processes, effectively the marriage of the underground music compilation LP and an anthology of poetry or short writings, potentially benefits all forms of creativity. Not to pick at teeth, but not every one of these collaborations is as likeable as the wonderful "Loose Teeth," which Weber presents near the conclusion of the program. Jeff Gburek's track of solo tabletop guitar is both highly original and totally captivating; he and maestro Weber on guitar provide the finale, a "Walkin' Mood." Albuquerque is a great place to take a walk, after all.

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