Any bop snob who claims that all avant-garde jazz sounds alike obviously hasn't done his/her homework. Avant-garde jazz has, over the years, had a wide variety of improvisers -- some dense and brutally forceful (Charles Gayle, late-period John Coltrane), and some reflective (Roscoe Mitchell and his AACM colleagues). On their fourth album, Intention, the Tone Sharks favor an approach that could be described as AACM-friendly. This 2002 date doesn't actually emulate Chicago's AACM recordings, but it does have a lot in common with albums that have come from the AACM school of avant-garde jazz. Instead of going for density, the Tone Sharks thrive on the use of space. And space, of course, is a main ingredient of AACM jazz -- space is something that one associates with Mitchell and similar explorers such as Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, and Joseph Jarman. Intention emphasizes outside playing, although not in a confrontational, in-your-face way. If Charles Gayle loves the sledgehammer approach to outside improvisation, Intention is just the opposite. This CD is pensive, contemplative, and mysterious -- not forceful -- and the Tone Sharks would rather take some time to reflect than beat listeners over the head (which isn't to say that there is anything wrong with a blistering approach -- it all depends on what the artist chooses to express). With Intention, the Tone Sharks unveil a new quartet lineup. While guitarist Steve Willis and trombonist Brent Heyne are gone, drummer Dave Storrs, bassist Page Hundemer, and altoist Tom Bergeron are still on board -- and the newcomer is guitarist Tom McNalley. But despite these lineup changes, the group's identity remains. Those who have enjoyed the Tone Sharks' previous CDs should have no problem getting into Intention.
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