In 1996, the Austrian record label Extraplatte released a series of three thematic sampler CDs. Extra Jazz '95-'96 covers a wide stylistic range, from fusion and post-bop to avant-garde jazz and abstract free improvisation. Since the label's catalog was already quite large at the time, the preferred editorial line was to represent as many artists/albums as possible. As a result, each get a very short amount of time, rarely over three minutes, and many tracks are limited to faded excerpts. Max Nagl's "VI" is a fit opener, its conciseness, playfulness, and high density making it the perfect synthesis of (most of) the music to come. The selections are generally well-chosen and organized to follow a general curve. It starts with avant-garde jazz, takes a side path into slightly more fusion and post-bop material, and comes back to the avant-gardist territories of Nouvelle Cuisine, Striped Roses, Eugene Chadbourne, and the like before closing with more accessible jazz. The listener gets a clear, generous view of the Austrian jazz scene and the label's catalogue. The downside is the variety will not please everybody; fans of a more rootsy jazz will skip numbers like Mia Zabelka and David Moss' "Dinosaur-Sex" and Max Nagl, Josef Novotny, and Burkhard Stangl's "Lunatic Fringe" -- let alone the unexplainable (because totally non-jazz) presence of the electro-acoustic composition "On" by Richard Valentin Strauß. On the other hand, avant-garde fans may recoil at the sound of the Allan Holdsworth-esque jazz-rock of the Uli Rennert Quartett.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture