John Zorn was beaming at the Newport Jazz Festival in August. The far-flung ensembles of his Masada family were together for a two and a half hour mix ’n’ match confab that stretched from chamber music gentility to red-zone dissonance that he proudly declared “sick” with one of his Zornian grins. The throughline was obvious all day: Each of the participating ensembles was radically tight, and the performances couldn’t have been more eloquent. It’s wise to expect something similar at the Village Vanguard this week, when many of the same participants — including Jamie Saft’s piano trio and Cyro Baptista’s Banquet of the Spirits — leap into Zorn’s Book Of Angels pieces, a collection of discrete works that flies under the flag of “mixing Ornette Coleman and Jewish scales.” The week’s ultimate mitzvah? The Saturday-night arrival of the maestro’s original Masada quartet, with Dave Douglas, Greg Cohen and Joey Baron. They will destroy the place with beauty.

Tue., Sept. 2, 8:30 p.m., 2014


Wayne Shorter

The jazz giant turns 80 in August, a milestone he’s marking early with an all-star birthday concert featuring collaborators past and present. This comes on the heels of Without a Net, a recently released live album that combines various incarnations of Shorter: the acoustic, the electric, the great improviser, and the nonpareil composer. Shorter has made a career of flying by nets, cutting his teeth with Art Blakey and Miles Davis, forecasting future sounds with Weather Report, and penning more contemporary jazz standards than anyone short of Thelonious Monk. With Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, Brian Blade, Dave Douglas, and other jazz luminaries.

Fri., June 28, 8 p.m., 2013


‘Terry Riley’s In C’

The Kronos Quartet has assembled an A-list roster for the 45th anniversary of composer Terry Riley’s minimalist masterpiece consisting of 53 repeated parts for “any number of any kind of instruments.” In addition to Kronos, this unique and massive conglomerate will include composer Morton Subotnick, singer Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan, trumpeter Dave Douglas, composer-keyboardist Philip Glass, composer Osvaldo Golijov, vocalist Joan La Barbara, saxophonist Lenny Pickett, guitarist Mark Stewart, pipa player Wu Man, rocker Dan Zanes, clarinetist Evan Ziporyn, and members of So Percussion, the GVSU New Music Ensemble, and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City.

Fri., April 24, 8 p.m., 2009


No Coasting—an Iron-Lipped Trumpeter Bridges East and West

In the liner notes to East Coast Cool, trumpeter John McNeil’s third provocative effort in a row for Omnitone following several ’80s SteepleChases no one much noticed, Dave Douglas’s onetime teacher explains that the idea was to combine “East Coast edge” and “West Coast economy of expression,” the latter epitomized for him by Gerry Mulligan’s pianoless quartet with Chet Baker. The rest of the material is original in more than name only. A measure of McNeil’s success that the edgiest thing here, next to his adaptation of a 12-tone Schoenberg piano concerto, might be a deconstruction of the Mulligan-associated “Bernie’s Tune”—poked at affectionately, its bridge flattened and decelerated into abstraction. Along with Mulligan and Baker, the iron-lipped McNeil and the supple baritonist Allan Chase call up Kenny Dorham and Ernie Henry, Pee Wee Russell and Marshall Brown, and Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry (West Coasters once, too). Going pianoless means greater melodic freedom for horns, but greater harmonic responsibilty for bass; John Hebert, as trusty here as on Andrew Hill’s Time Lines, shoulders the added burden gracefully while never leaving doubt where the beat is unless some doubt is called for. And I swear Matt Wilson’s spry cymbals would have brought to mind Gerard Manley Hopkins’s concept of sprung rhythm even without the prod of a McNeil tune called “Wanwood.”


Third Annual Trumpet Smorgasbord Starts With a Salute

Though lacking the clout of JVC and the community of the Vision Festival, the Festival of New Trumpet Music, a/k/a FONT Music, has evolved into a summer institution. Its third incarnation, intelligently designed by Dave Douglas, Roy Campbell, and Jon Nelson, distributed nearly four dozen bands across four successive venues—starting with the Jazz Standard, which gamely accommodated a six-day paean to Lester Bowie, the Art Ensemble trickster whose trumpet geekdom took a backseat to his musical scope.

Bowie’s patron sainthood, along with Douglas’s omnipresence, kept the week from unraveling into Trumpetpalooza. All of the 14 bands that played the Standard had horns at the helm—even Burnt Sugar, in a roundabout way—but the instrument was rarely the main focus. When it was, as in Bill Dixon’s slurry of a set, conventional heroics were supplanted by a self-effacing brand of virtuosity: echo-chamber whimpers instead of alpha-male displays. Douglas, in his Brass Ecstasy band, set an example by sharing the spotlight with trombonists Ray Anderson and Clark Gayton. Both earned their keep on Douglas’s head-wagger “Just Another Murder”—as did tubaist Marcus Rojas, who puffed a bass vamp ripped from Björk’s “Human Behaviour.”

Bobby Bradford and Baikida Carroll, trumpeters from Bowie’s generation, paid their tributes without stylistic deference. Each played commandingly but left the heavy lifting to his sidemen: Bradford got an immeasurable boost from bassists Mark Dresser and Ken Filiano, while Carroll nominally led a blazing group that in other circumstances would be Tim Berne’s something-or-other. It’s no accident that Carroll, who was on the Julius Hemphill records that clinched Berne’s style, breezed through the latter’s typically knotty new “BG . . . uh . . . OH,” a highlight of the set.

FONT Music’s stated aim of upending inside-outside dichotomies jibed nicely with the likes of Campbell, Corey Wilkes and Cuong Vu and was dramatically fulfilled by Randy Sandke’s tunefully avant-garde “Mystic Trumpeter” suite, which gave the lie to his conservative rep. Closing night at the Standard, Sandke’s Metatonal Band delivered what felt like a culmination. It wasn’t, of course; there were still several weeks of hornucopia ahead.


Resist Labels, Reverse Roles

Dave Douglas and Dave Holland are among the latest to start their own imprints, a current trend in jazz with roots in the 1950s, when Dizzy Gillespie launched Dee Gee, Charles Mingus and Max Roach ran Debut, and Sun Ra began documenting himself on El Saturn. The most ambitious vanity label of them all—and probably the most historically significant—was Michael Mantler and Carla Bley’s JCOA, whose first two releases (Jazz Composer’s Orchestra in 1968, followed by Escalator Over the Hill three years later) showed it was possible to realize large-scale productions without big-label bucks. And from Escalator to midway through the second Reagan administration, Bley and Mantler’s New Music Distribution Service functioned as a clearinghouse for DIY releases by jazz outsiders and experimentalists from the classical fringe (one of whom grew up to be Philip Glass). The other crucial artist-run co-op of the ’70s was Strata-East, started by Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell as a step toward greater black self-reliance.

The ’70s were dire for jazz commercially, and what with corporate consolidation and pressure on jazz departments to keep up with Diana Krall and Norah Jones, the next few years could be a replay. If kept in print long enough, jazz albums eventually earn back their meager production costs and more, but the thinking at the majors seems to be that posterity is for losers. Because specialty and import labels can’t pick up all the slack, it looks like we’re going to be seeing more and more musicians financing their own recordings and either following Maria Schneider’s example and selling exclusively online (a crucial new option) or signing distribution deals with indies—the route chosen by Branford Marsalis and now Douglas and Holland.

Douglas’s finest work since Charms of the Night Sky and A Thousand Evenings with his drummerless quartet of the late ’90s, Mountain Passages offers 13 thematically linked pieces commissioned by the Sound of the Dolomites, an annual festival combining performances and mountain hiking in the Italian Alps, and loosely based on Douglas’s impressions of Ladino, the folk music of the Sephardic Jews who settled in the Fassa region following their expulsion from Spain in 1492. In other words, not exactly RCA’s kind of project. Douglas’s stretch with RCA coincided with what I think of as his Blue Mitchell period, five years or so during which he sought to put his own warp on hard bop, sanctified funk, and Miles’s modes. His RCA albums, including his Strange Interlude swan song, were solid enough, but the free (and semi-free) improvisations on last year’s Bow River Falls (on Koch) had more edge, and Mountain Passages is a leap for him as a composer.

Only part of the album’s charm lies in its novel instrumentation—Douglas’s trumpet, Michael Moore’s alto and clarinet, Peggy Lee’s cello, Marcus Rojas’s tuba, and Dylan van der Schyff’s drums. The flavor is in the clever deployment: Douglas’s growls and bent notes (his climactic solo on “Bury Me Standing”), van der Schyff’s bombs and traps sculptures, Lee’s impersonations of a walking bass or a string quartet, Rojas’s bebop John Philip Sousa, and the overlap between the two lead horns (Douglas loves canons and rounds) all creating the illusion of a full orchestra in waiting. Somehow darkest at their most whimsical (the album is dedicated to Douglas’s father, himself a mountain walker, who died shortly before it was recorded), these pieces often sound like expansions of folk themes, though I know too little about any sort of Ladino, including Fassa, to say for sure. Moore’s clarinet is positively hazan-like on “North Point Memorial,” and along with the Sephardic echoes, there are traces of Carla Bley, Henry Threadgill (the tumult announcing “A Nasty Spill”), Bach (“Gumshoe” is an air, more or less), and Monk (the title “Off Major” would be a giveaway even without the stride bass). But given that the closest similarities are to the lucid fanfares on his own In Our Lifetime (1994) and to his rejiggling of Eastern European folk with the Tiny Bell Trio, anyone vaguely familiar with Douglas should at once recognize this as his.

Without the jewel box in hand, I might not know whose big band I was hearing on Holland’s Overtime, though I’d be impressed enough to wonder. In a field of music lacking a specific literature for each instrument, where trumpeters and saxophonists have always transposed each other’s patterns and singers imitate horns even as horns seek to approximate vox humana, jazz composers practice their own form of role reversal. Whereas Mountain Passages is an example of using every trick in the book to give a small group the depth and thrust of a big band, Overtime is the reverse, an attempt to allow a big band the spontaneity of a small group—namely bassist Holland’s own long-standing quintet, whose current members (saxophonist Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibist Steve Nelson, and drummer Billy Kilson) form the nucleus of his 13-piece orchestra. Why Holland left ECM after 30 years of carte blanche I have no idea, unless, as with the founders of Strata-East way back when, it had something to do with ownership of his masters. Holland’s mature aesthetic has always been closer to that of classic Blue Note anyway, and the devices from that era he uses in scoring for orchestra—ostinatos, polyrhythms and modified funk eighths, and lots of counterpoint—are the same ones that define his quintet. There is little to no voicing across sections, and with Nelson playing a largely coloristic role, it’s often as though the sections are comping for the soloists in place of a missing piano. Although the track I keep playing is Eubanks’s pounding and comically austere “Mental Images,” Holland’s writing is state-of-the-art hard bop. The soloists can’t be faulted, either, with baritonist Gary Smuylan taking top honors for his suave and commanding choruses on “A Time Remembered,” the third movement of Holland’s four-part, 50-minute Monterey Suite. Yet something is missing. To the extent that Holland has succeeded in enlarging his quintet, maybe it’s a big band.


Monk Business: The Jazz Pianist Adds Some Swing to the Season

Stick your head into any jazz club on any night and chances are good that be it lick, riff, or tune itself, someone will be referencing Monk. More than Miles, more than Duke, Monk remains central to the modern bandleader’s book—the go-to guy when things become too serious. Credit the insouciance of his melodies and recognize his bedrock sense of swing.

Roswell Rudd has been smitten with Monk’s puckish demeanor for decades; the pianist’s canon has helped shape the sixtysomething trombonist’s own work over the years, and his Monksieland tribute ensemble refracts the master’s esprit as adroitly as it reconstructs his songs. A droll sense of instrumental banter is central to the group’s sound. Last time I caught ’em at Iridium a novice pal used the term wiseacres to describe the onstage action—even without knowing the tunes he could tell that piety was being deep-sixed.

Since then Rudd’s wry soprano partner Steve Lacy has passed (they had been knocking at Thelonious’s door since cutting Monk’s School Days in the ’60s). When Monksieland illuminate their hero, it’s with clarinet player Don Byron on board. The front line is rounded out by trumpeter Dave Douglas, who reminds that Rudd’s Dixieland roots help charge the delight that’s in the air when all three horns unite.

Stressing this group approach, Rudd cites “collective polyphony” as his tack. “A song like ‘Off Minor’ has a rhythm and spirit that’s very old-time—the swing is right inside it, and I always like all the musicians, as well as the audience, to feel that.”

So if you hear a little storm in the middle of “Bemsha Swing,” it’s just the process of Sharing. And If You’ve Got Any Pals Who Appreciate Wiseacres, Now’s The Time To Call ’em.


Give His Piece a Chance: Pete Robbins Jazzes Up National Politics

Feel like facilitating a little regime change? Got an urge for seeing as many voters registered as possible? Then you’re not unlike Pete Robbins. For the last few months, the saxophonist-composer has been fighting the good fight by bringing grassroots political action to the West Village. Curating a series of concerts in the basement performance space of the Cornelia Street Café, Robbins has nudged jazz into the large ring of rockers who are in cahoots with the nonprofit activist organization Music for America (MFA). Fully partisan, the group has declared that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and passivity in this year’s election is tantamount to self-destruction. They’re beating the drums through a series of concerts geared to stimulate ideas that expose the hypocrisies of Republican rhetoric.

Dedicated to some MFA (and fundraising, Robbins has manned the phones and turned out high-vis improvisers such as trumpeter Dave Douglas, drummer Rodney Green, and saxophonist John O’Gallagher; each has shared bills with the alto player’s left-leaning Centric ensemble. Somewhat new in town, Robbins came down from Boston a couple of years ago; his unusual melodic designs and imaginative swing sensibility earned him local notice right away. Centric finds him exchanging horn lines with the dean of New England bent-bop saxophonists, George Garzone. Sharing this evening’s bill is Uri Caine, who has no problem ousting orthodoxy. The intrepid arranger made his mark reimagining the works of Mahler and Bach. He also plays the hell out of any piano placed before him.

Those of us anticipating a Kerry victory in November may do well to put our John Hancock on MFA’s petition to the Dems’ presidential candidate. Its main points call for building a society that works for all, putting people before corporate lobbyists, and being a world leader, not a world bully. If you hear an extremely passionate passage coming from the stage tonight, it’ll be Robbins seconding all of those ideas.

Pete Robbins performs September 24, Cornelia Street Café, 29 Cornelia Street, 212.989.9319.


September 24-25

Jazz Gallery, 290 Hudson Street, 212.242.1063

Powerhouse drummer Tain Watts used to play with powerhouse pianist Kirkland, who died in 1998. The weekend is spent honoring the lost pal’s resounding spirit, and the wildly physical interplay that marks the work of both musicians should summon that spirit accordingly. Watts’s group is one of New York’s finest, and special guests are scheduled.


September 28-October 3

Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, 212.255.4037

The acclaimed pianist has dedicated so much time to trios that other options—save his weak-tea take on electrocoustic pop, Largo—seem remote. This foursome will be defined not only by Mehldau’s rightly heralded romance and rumination, but by Mark Turner’s chessboard tenor maneuvers.


September 29

Sweet Rhythm, 88 Seventh Avenue South, 212.255.3626

Those who monitor the in-town jazz piano realm have had their eye on the pianist for a while now. He’s goosed the action in Don Byron’s outfits and helped take David Sanchez’s outfits to the next level. Simultaneously poised and frisky, his sextet stuff—a debut of sorts (he doesn’t lead often enough)—should be intriguing.


October 1-2

Smoke, 2751 Broadway, 212.864.6662

There’s a pop side to the pianist, but it has nothing to do with covers of Radiohead and Joni Mitchell tunes, as is the wont of some contemporary keyboardists. Instead Alexander turns to Jamaica and reggae. Riddim is primary in his radically agile threesome, and from ska to skank he effects some compelling grooves.


October 5-10

Iridium, 1650 Broadway, 212.582.2121

The master bandleader’s music has proven, as one of his key titles suggests, to be indestructible. This hat tip unites both contemporaries and acolytes, and if they stick to the drummer’s iconic hard-bop book, Jazz Messengers they’ll indeed become. There’ll be no problem in the percussion chair: On alternating nights, Ralph Peterson, Louis Hayes, and Ben Riley will have the clout covered.


October 13

Barbès, 376 9th Street, Brooklyn, 718.965.9177

They’ve often broken bread and chuckled together about politics, but the wry clarinetist and cagey pianist—both respected downtown bandleaders with a yen for radical Jewish culture—haven’t done duets before. This cozy room is celebrating two years as a Brooklyn staple for new jazz; I bet its ambience helps them hit the bull’s-eye.


October 19-24

Jazz Standard, 116 East 27th Street, 212.447.7733

The wily pianist always has a concept up his sleeve, and this six-night stretch with six different partners should be a revealing frame for his stylistic know-how. Exchanges with reed player Michael Moore and trumpeter Dave Douglas might bend a few rules; those with bassist John Patitucci and saxophonist Joel Frahm might show us his dedication to beauty.


October 28-30

Rose Theater, 33 West 60th Street, 212.258.9800

The titular subjects are to be exalted in word and song by celeb orators and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, which will be playing an array of pieces—by Jimmy Heath, Darius Brubeck, and Stevie Wonder among others—commissioned for this affair. Trumpeting “liberty and triumph,” Wynton’s ensemble will acknowledge the victories of real-life superheroes such as MLK, Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela, and Eleanor Roosevelt.


November 12-13

Rose Theater, 33 West 60th Street, 212.258.9800

The first African American boxer to win the heavyweight crown, Johnson became a symbol for all sorts of things in the early 19th century. He’s getting the Ken Burns treatment, and Wynton Marsalis’s pieces on the profile’s soundtrack will be performed by his usually red-hot septet while punditry is perpetrated and excerpts are screened.


No, Not Lee Greenwood—The Kind of Bush Music With Uhuru in It

Why jazz is no longer as political as in the days of “Fables of Faubus” and “Alabama” has been the subject of much recent Internet chatter. You can point to Dave Douglas, Don Byron, Vijay Iyer, and the Kerry fundraisers, but they’re exceptions. Nor do I buy the idea that today’s complex issues call for more nuanced forms of protest, or believe that musicians have become apathetic. I think they fear nobody outside their small circle is listening, so what’s the use? Jazz’s motto could be Las Vegas’s “What happens here stays here,” only said in self-loathing, not self-love. Jazz still dared to hope for a larger audience in 1970, when saxophonist Gary Bartz and his five-piece NTU Troop featuring vocalist Andy Bey recorded Uhuru and Tafia, now reissued together as Harlem Bush Music. With what passed for a revolution going on in the streets, black musicians like Bartz felt a special urgency to stay relevant. Simplified hard bop that borrowed liberally from free jazz, Bartz’s consciousness raising was livelier and more down-to-earth than Pharoah Sanders’s meditations. Bartz’s alto and soprano solos were adventurous given the context, and the supple Bey never lapsed into the solemn declamation some of Bartz’s lyrics invited. The LPs sold, too: Fledgling Milestone could hardly keep up, and the store I worked in would be out of stock for weeks at a time. The catchy “Uhuru Sasa” was a particular favorite of our black customers. I bet you find yourself chanting along with it too, even after all these years.


Trumpets No End

I’m vacationing in California as you read this, you’re bracing for the Republican occupation, and FONT, the second annual Festival of New Trumpet Music curated by Dave Douglas, Roy Campbell, and Jon Nelson, is already half over. Just because I’m going to miss Hugh Ragin and Herb Robertson at Tonic, and then rare appearances by avant-eminences Leo Smith at Tonic August 25 and Bill Dixon at the Center August 31, doesn’t mean you should—unless, of course, you plan to flee before the invasion. If you’ve been to any of the shows so far, or paid attention to the soloists in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Maria Schneider’s big band, you don’t need me to tell you that jazz is rife with talented younger trumpeters. But with Wynton Marsalis and Dave Douglas at their peaks, there’s not much room at the top.

In terms of how they’re perceived, today’s trumpeters come in two varieties, Wyntons and Daves. Contrary to what you may have heard, the defining difference isn’t race: Brian Lynch is a Wynton and Wallace Roney a Dave. It boils down to a trumpeter’s stand on the canon versus electric Miles, free-form, modern European composers, and electronica. Jeremy Pelt, sensationally gifted and still in his late twenties, is a Wynton, despite plugging in for his FONT set at Tonic two weeks ago and including Booker Little (dissonance) and Chet Baker (lyrical simplicity) in his personal canon. Ron Horton, a member of the Jazz Composers Collective whose quick-witted solos with Andrew Hill should be enough make him a name, is a Dave, and therein lies his problem—the current scheme allows for only one brainy white guy, and Douglas has that part sewn up.

Pelt’s Close to My Heart, his first domestic release following imports on Fresh Sound and Criss Cross, is from 2003; I’m just now getting around to it because I had trouble overcoming my initial ambivalence. Things go wrong right away with Charles Mingus’s “Weird Nightmare,” one of five tracks where a string quartet arranged by David O’Rourke enfolds Pelt and the first-call rhythm section of Mulgrew Miller, Peter Washington, and Lewis Nash in perfumed gauze. (As Gunther Schuller inadvertently demonstrated with Epitaph, if it’s in tune and one tempo from start to finish, it ain’t Mingus.) O’Rourke’s plodding Mantovani is especially bothersome for being attached to numbers not yet in the standard repertoire and might have been ideal for Pelt. When was the last time anyone not a cabaret singer recorded Frank Loesser’s “In Your Eyes” or Dorothy Wayne and Raymond Rasch’s “It’s a Beautiful Evening,” which I know only from Dorothy Dandridge’s 1961 version for Verve with Oscar Peterson?

But I said I was ambivalent, and here’s why: the stuff sans strings is worth raving about, and some of the material is as tantalizingly obscure. “Take Me in Your Arms,” for example, is a torch song recorded by Ruth Etting in 1932 (and written by Fred Markush and Mitchell Parrish, rather than the team credited here); Pelt and Miller take it uptempo and swing the hell out of it. Technique is abundant among young soloists today, and Pelt bows to no one in speed or dexterity (the best evidence here is on Pepper Adams’s “Excerent,” where his ease of articulation at a whirlwind tempo begs comparison with Clifford Brown). Depth of emotion on ballads isn’t in such ready supply, but an unaccompanied “Don’t You Know I Care” from the Ellington songbook and a duet with O’Rourke’s acoustic guitar on “This Is the Moment” (from a 1948 Betty Grable flick, for crying out loud) proves that Pelt has it to spare. On first listen, Close to My Heart invites the question of whether we really need independent jazz labels for albums without originals or extended blowing. Yet this is finally a better showcase for Pelt than those two imports, where he was one soloist in a string of them.

Along with originals by himself and pianist Frank Kimbrough, Horton’s Subtextures includes one piece each by Chopin, Messiaen, and Andrew Hill. None the wiser, you might not guess that the Chopin and Messiaen were from the classical repertoire: after being lovingly stated, they buoy floating improvisations like something by Herbie Hancock or Wayne Shorter (which the Messiaen sort of resembles). If anything, Kimbrough’s “Rumors” sounds more “classical” by virtue of its Bach-like theme-and-variations. On these as well as Horton’s “Malaby,” “Ruminations,” and “Subtextures,” drummer Matt Wilson rushes ahead of the beat so nobody else has to, kind of the way Tony Williams did with Miles Davis—though reflective and deliberately paced, Horton’s furled solos convey great urgency. Wilson and bassist Ben Allison keep things moving smoothly even on Hill’s “Cantarnos,” a tricky, Latin-accented piece with a long, churning melodic line over broken eighth notes. Horton has a full, lovely tone that can turn saw-toothed as the tune demands, and the frequent trumpet-and-piano unisons on the theme statements are a nice touch—all the more so because he and Kimbrough are so perfectly in tune figuratively as well as musically. Subtextures is state-of-the-art, and if it doesn’t bring wider attention to Horton, I don’t know what can.

Before dashing for the airport, Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint concealed in my carry-on, I also feel obliged to recommend Hugh Ragin’s Revelation. You may remember Ragin from his bolting solos with Roscoe Mitchell and David Murray in the ’80s. More recently, a teaching gig in Colorado has been keeping him out of New York, and Revelation has what I suspect is a hidden pedagogical agenda. Ragin and his pianoless quartet—with bassist William Parker, drummer Hamid Drake, and tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist Assif Tsahar—give what amount to a survey course in free jazz, with special emphasis on early Ornette Coleman (trumpet and sax match pitch, then hit it on “Restoration Intensive”), Albert Ayler (on “The Battlefield,” Tsahar’s lurching bass clarinet hints at free jazz’s dark side and Ragin makes like Donald Ayler with chops), and the AACM (a bit of spontaneous sound sculpture on “Skull Hill”). None of it sounds derivative, because Ragin’s compositions bounce with glee and his solos jump with as many ideas as they do unusual intervals.

Now, time to hail a taxi.