Various Artists

Kimus #5

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The fifth volume in the Hat Kimus series of samplings from their catalogue is easily their most outrageous. Over 70 minutes in length, it features everything from the sublime to the academic to the absurd. The disc begins with three duets by pianist Ran Blake and tenorman Ricky Ford, all of them Gershwin tunes having to do with the bass -- which is perverse since there isn't one in the band. They swing in a deep blues idiom that would have been wasted on Gershwin, who wrote these tunes as humorous ditties. They dig down into the roots of the changes and come up with an emotional and rhythmic base that improves upon the originals considerably. Next up is percussionist Fritz Hauser playing solo percussion in the windswept alcoves of a castle from his album Pensieri Bianchi. These pieces don't really work here given that the album as a whole has to be considered for its individual parts to make sense. The real spark ignites the flame when three Steve Lacy pieces are preformed by his 16-piece big band from the album Itinerary, conducted by Gustave Bauer. It's true; the album is a mind bender because of its complex charts and considerable invention in interval, harmony, and meter, as well as the notion of improvisation inside a large ensemble. However, this trio of selections gives the listener an accurate enough picture of the logique du swing behind of composer Lacy's mindset. From Lacy we move to Franz Koglmann and two works from his controversial opus The Use of Memory. On both selections, "Monoblue" and "For Max," he illustrates his comfort in weaving together romantic-era classical music and earlier jazz forms into his own ideology of modern composition, which may sound academic in principle, but aurally it is anything but; the music is inspired, exceptionally composed, arranged, and played. Rounding out this sampler are the Maarten Altena Ensemble, a big band playing an avant-garde jazz chart that is as hysterically funny as it is incentive, and Habarigani from their second album of Hans Kennel compositions for the Swiss alphorn (a primitive and much larger ancestor to the trumpet). They're delightful in their low-key way, especially after Altena, but one has to wonder why they chose selections from this record to close the collection. It's puzzling in that all four previous volumes have had strategies employed in picking titles. This one appears randomly chosen and haphazardly ordered, but no matter. The majority of what's here is some of the finest music anywhere and serves as more than a small sampling of what's in store for Hat buyers and collectors of the past, present, and future.

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