Billy Martin & Socket

January 14 & 15 2005

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When it comes to experimental jazz, there is mildly avant-garde and there is extremely avant-garde. Examples of extremely avant-garde would include Charles Gayle, Cecil Taylor, and post-1965 John Coltrane; mildly avant-garde could be anything from Sun Ra to saxman Jorge Sylvester to Russ Gershon's Either/Orchestra and other inside/outside artists who have recorded for Gershon's Accurate Records. And the words mildly avant-garde could also be applied to Billy Martin's January 14-15, 2005, a CD that is definitely left of center but is still -- by avant-garde jazz standards -- relatively accessible. The material, for all its eccentricity and abstraction, has an immediacy that is missing from a lot of avant-garde jazz (which isn't to say that the more extreme stuff isn't valid and worthwhile -- only that it isn't nearly as easy to absorb). Recorded live at Tonic (a Manhattan venue) on January 14 and 15, 2005, this 54-minute disc is named after its recording dates. But had Martin opted to name the album after one of its selections, an appropriate title might have been "Purification of Wounds" -- appropriate because there is something very uplifting and enriching about these highly spiritual performances, which are greatly influenced by African tribal music. This is avant-garde jazz that -- as clich├ęd as it may sound -- leaves the listener feeling refreshed. Next to drummer/percussionist Martin, the star of these abstract yet funky performances is vocalist Shelley Hirsch, whose singing and chanting favors a consistently stream-of-consciousness approach. Hirsch spares no passion, and she clearly enjoys a strong rapport with the leader. Martin has a great deal to be proud of -- especially his work with Medeski, Martin & Wood -- and January 14-15, 2005 is yet another release he should be thrilled to have in his discography.

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