Jeffrey Schanzer assembled an intriguing bunch of musicians for his first album, including the veteran violin virtuoso Leroy Jenkins and three (at the time) younger musicians who would become major forces in the downtown New York City scene in ensuing years. Schanzer sometimes wields a prepared guitar here, one generally designed to evoke Balinese and other Southeast Asian musics (though often sounding very much like Cage's prepared pianos from the '40s), a stance clearly at play in the first piece, "Movement." Jenkins' soaring, plaintive violin is in high relief here and, indeed, the piece sounds like something out of the Revolutionary Ensemble repertoire. Its quietly surging nature, with a pulse that's never quite expressed, makes for an enchanting tour of the group's capabilities. "No Pasaran" has the composer restricting himself to claves, while the band vamps along on a loosely Latin-tinged theme, with ample solo space for drummer Previte. Bernadette Speach conducts "Vistas," a kind of "conduction" à la Butch Morris, with Ned Rothenberg's delicate flute in the featured role. It's a nice use of space but lacking the kind of bite one hungers for, settling too easily into a soft, dreamy territory. "Bounce" is the most overtly jazz-like tune on the album with overt references to Thelonious Monk (especially "Straight, No Chaser"), but fails to cohere either as a new take on Monk or as a free exercise using the pianist's ideas as a base. Overall, Vistas is something of a mixed bag, although its highlights (the first two tracks) make it worth the listen.
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