Various Artists

Visions: Performances from the EMIT Series

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At the twilight of the 20th century, an underground circuit formed in the United States that allowed freestyle jazz-oriented musicians to travel from city to city performing at generally small venues. Some communities -- such as those in Baltimore, MD, and Buffalo, NY -- managed to develop fairly large followings due substantially to the work of one or more intensely devoted individuals. This recording collects tracks recorded from concerts in Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, FL, mostly at the Salvador Dali Museum. The surprisingly vibrant scene in central Florida produced a surfeit of selections to choose from, making the winnowing process an extremely difficult one. The tracks that were chosen are a treasure trove of free improvisation. The opening duo -- featuring British reed player Evan Parker and longtime Orlando, FL, resident and world-class improviser Sam Rivers -- is probably the highlight of the compilation, as these two giants are rarely, if ever, heard performing together. The track delivers handsomely, with the different styles of the two saxophonists meshing perfectly. Other highlights include a riveting improvisation featuring British guitarist Derek Bailey and local percussionist phenom Jim Stewart, a solo acoustic bass exhibition by German bassist Peter Kowald, a wacky improvised duet between Davey Williams on guitar and talented producer-trombonist David Manson, and a strong group effort by Eugene Chadbourne and a version of the Floridian powerhouse group Shim. As an introduction to avant-garde jazz or free improvisation, this is one of the best on the market. But discard the labels and listen: There are some remarkably capable performers here who you may not hear again because their music is so hard to find. They transcend categories and offer a real glimpse into a small, yet compelling underground world of solid musicianship.