Although the third stream movement peaked in the '50s, the fusion of jazz and European classical music still offers a variety of intriguing possibilities in the 21st century -- some of them lyrical and melodic, some of them more abstract and left-of-center. It all depends on what the artist hopes to accomplish. There is no reason why a jazzman cannot use the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven or Fryderyk Chopin as a vehicle for improvisation and do so with melodic, relatively accessible results, but on the other hand, something more abstract is also valid -- something as far to the left as Spooky Actions, Music of Anton Webern. This very cerebral debut album by the quartet Spooky Actions successfully combines avant-garde jazz with avant-garde classical. The pianoless Spooky Actions -- which includes guitarist Bruce Arnold, reedman John Gunther, acoustic bassist Peter Herbert and drummer Tony Moreno -- are not avant-garde in an abrasive, confrontational way. Rather, the New York City residents get much of their avant-garde inspiration from Chicago's AACM and fearless explorers like Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell -- that is, people who have demonstrated that avant-garde jazz can be reflective and spacy instead of favoring the harsh, blistering, ferociously dense approach that characterized John Coltrane during the last few years of his life. And Spooky Actions brings that AACM influence to the compositions of Anton Webern (b. 1883, d. 1945), reminding us that classical pieces can, in fact, be open to interpretation. Classical purists would disagree with that assertion, but then, Spooky Actions aren't catering to classical purists any more than they're catering to jazz purists and bop snobs. This CD is strictly for the most open-minded individuals in the jazz and classical worlds -- and those who fit that description will find a lot to admire about Spooky Actions' Webern tribute.
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