Stripsearch

Stripsearch

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On paper, it's hard to predict where three musicians with such diverse backgrounds might find common ground. On disc, however, the answer becomes obvious: hip-hop rhythm mainstay Michael Elizondo, Wallflowers alumnus Michael Ward, and monster drummer Josh Freese connect in the realm of free, jazz-inflected improvisation. (Saxophonist Jason Freese assumes a supportive guest role on several tracks.) Throughout this debut album, they play with a volatile blend of muscle and flexibility. The drummer's technique -- equal parts dexterity and force -- sets the tone; even on tracks like "Orange Fragile," a slow-motion study of shadows and space, there's a sense that, at any second, his filmy cymbal rolls will erupt into a fury of brutal rhythm. And when he does unleash the demons, as on an extended single-stroke assault that briefly demolishes the loopy jazz vibe on "The Mongoose," the effect is almost terrifying. As if to temper these episodes, the other musicians play more minimally; Ward concentrates on textures and abstractions and Elizondo often anchors the sound with a feathery, dark drone. The trio's time frames range from long -- as in the first several tracks, which melt together like lava slithering across a varied landscape -- to rudely abrupt, as in "The Real Deal," a minute-long frenzy of ferocious intensity. Yet Stripsearch makes itself felt as a single entity, in which almost every musical gesture is a risk and almost every risk pays off.

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