Recorded over two nights at Providence, RI's AS220 club, Um is essentially the Hal Crook Group with Medeski, Martin & Wood organist John Medeski sitting in on organ. The music -- mostly composed by Crook to showcase his Trom-o-Tizer (a digital filter for his trombone) -- dances around the idea of free jazz, but rarely gives in to out-and-out chaos. Instead, the group -- riding on top of Bob Gullotti's fluid and fearless drumming -- swings in an almost discordant fashion. Crook's Trom-o-Tizer -- which, at times, sounds positively like an effects-laden fusion guitar wanker -- lends much to the vibe of the proceedings. Without it, for example, "Stray Dog" would sound like a fairly straight-ahead nod to James Bond composer John Barry. Instead, the Trom-o-Tizer lends an air of weirdness to the piece by providing strange harmonies to Crook's melody. Likewise, other songs might benefit from more straight-ahead playing. The title track presents what is essentially the disc's paradox. With the Trom-o-Tizer, it is curiously fascinating. Without the Trom-o-Tizer, the song's melody likely would not be as memorable. Can the same be said for the group (and album) as a whole? Thankfully, Medeski's always on-point, suitably wild B-3 playing keeps the group anchored and makes the album worth listening to.
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AllMusic Review by Jesse Jarnow