As if to remind listeners of their downtown past, Human Feel begins its first new album in over a decade with an onslaught of Lower East Side noise. This kind of throat-clearing might’ve been impressive back in the era of “Young Lion” conservatism, but nowadays it begs the question: Why did these guys get back together again? The answer, unsurprisingly, can be found in the following tracks. This is, after all, the same Human Feel that served as a de facto farm team for some of the best jazz groups of the last decade. It would be onerous to list them all.
Suffice it to say that, for many jazz nerds, an appearance by either saxophonist-clarinetist Chris Speed or drummer Jim Black is enough to justify an evening on the town. Their bandmates are no slouches either. Rounded out by saxophonist-clarinetist Andrew D’Angelo and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, the quartet specializes in tight, riff-based jazz that incorporates elements of extreme metal and late-20th-century minimalism. It’s an ambitious mix, and when it all comes together the results are stunning. “Fuss” is everything that you could want from a Speed composition: It’s catchy, intricate and, powered by Black’s beats, as funky as it is propulsive. The only missteps occur when the band indulges its noisier side. On the 18-minute “Fuck the Development of You,” Human Feel alternates between crisp, clean unison playing and atavistic free-for-alls. You can probably guess which should’ve been left in the past.