The Michigan-based Northwoods Improvisers collective meld the largely undefined sounds of world music with jazz stylizations. Here, multi-reedman Faruq Z. Bey of the Detroit area band Griot Galaxy resides as the featured soloist.
Vibist Mike Gilmore and the percussionists' swarming rhythms -- featuring standard drums and worldly instruments -- provide the generally brimful undercurrents. On the opening piece, titled "Mathnawi," the band jumps out of the gate with a peppery ostinato groove, largely due to Mike Johnson's well-defined acoustic basslines.
Bey resides as a forceful presence throughout, evidenced by his soul-searching choruses, wrapped around a robust tenor sax tone. At times, memories of latter-day Coltrane come to mind. And while the artists do not reinvent the proverbial wheel, this effort is brimming with motivated performances consisting of swirling pulses and a distinct sense of fluency. It's an up-tempo extravaganza that adheres to the free jazz idiom, accented by a series of abstracts and torrid flows. Moreover, Gilmore's vibe work nicely contrasts his fellow soloists' lofty excursions, while richly stated textures abound in concert with the group's soulful approach to free-form inclinations.