Often, anthologies of recorded excerpts from live performances at jazz festivals don't work. Given that these performances are removed from the context of what came before or followed them, continuity is lacking and a piece of music feels as if it were played in a void rather than in front of an enthusiastic audience. Vision, recorded live at the 2002 Vision Festival, doesn't succumb to that problem. Instead, each of these nine selections feels as if it were played in sequence. Whether that is due to judicious editing or excellent aesthetics is open to debate, but one might prefer to believe the latter. Like Aum Fidelity, another East Coast independent label dedicated to bringing the new music to listeners, Thirsty Ear (and in particular its Blue Series) has consistently delivered the goods and broken barriers. The nine cuts here are no exception. Containing work from Jemeel Moondoc's Muntu, Dave Burrell and Tyrone Brown in a piano and bass duet, Billy Bang's latest trio, Douglas Ewart's quintet with Wadada Leo Smith, Joseph Jarman, Hamid Drake, and William Parker, the late Peter Kowald, Matthew Shipp's String Trio, Kidd Jordan and Fred Anderson's quartet, Ellen Christi's fine band, and Karen Borca's foursome, this is an equal-opportunity representation of seasoned vets and Young Lions.
Some of the performances themselves are edited down or faded, but given the sequencing, it doesn't matter. The fade from Muntu to Burrell works in that dynamics change just jarringly enough for the listener to move into a different space. Likewise, the tonal explorations of Bang's trio are supported well as they give way to the Ewart quintet's bliss-and-holler dynamics, where Smith and Jarman wrap streams of harmonic extension around one another in response to a rhythm section at its most open and freewheeling once the piece gets moving. The Borca band is pure fury, with a rhythm section consisting of bassist Reggie Workman and Newman-Taylor Baker on drums. Borca's bassoon stands in sharp yet complementary texture to Rob Brown's alto. For whatever reason, this particular segment is marred by substandard sound, but the performance is stellar enough that one can ignore that. Finally, there is Peter Kowald's moving and adventurous bass solo, which lasts over ten minutes. It is never dry, often wry, and completely revelatory in terms of the evolution of the instrument not only in modern jazz, but as a solo improvisational instrument. The set also comes with a bonus DVD of these performances at the festival in 5:1 ratio sound. Great deal. Great anthology.