By its very nature, avant-garde jazz is self-indulgent -- and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Even the best avant-garde jazz (which can be anyone from Cecil Taylor to the Art Ensemble of Chicago to Ivo Perelman) is self-indulgent, but when the artist's creativity is at a high level, one is willing to accept the excesses (or perhaps even enjoy them). A collection of live performances from a 2000 tour of the U.S., Fugues and Flowers isn't without its self-indulgent moments. But this acoustic CD (which was recorded in Chicago and Atlanta) is not self-indulgent in a mindless or aimless way -- quite the contrary. Gold Sparkle Band's free jazz excursions always make sense, and it is obvious that the '60s recordings of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler (two prominent influences) have been a positive influence on the avant-garde explorers. Does Fugues and Flowers have its excesses? Absolutely. But overall, there is a method to the madness; alto saxman/clarinetist Charles Waters, trumpeter Roger Ruzow, bassist Adam Roberts, and drummer Andrew Barker bring a sense of purpose to abstract material like "Zodiac Attack" and "Motor City Fugue" (which lasts 25 minutes). As left of center as this material is, Fugues and Flowers is not an exercise in atonal chaos for the sake of atonal chaos -- in fact, the pianoless GSB knows exactly what it is doing on this 67-minute CD. Fugues and Flowers isn't groundbreaking or revolutionary by early-'00s standards -- Coleman, Ayler, and their colleagues were doing this sort of thing 40 years earlier. But GSB is good at what it does, and Fugues and Flowers is a noteworthy example of '60s-minded, Coleman-influenced free jazz.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson