South Side Story
Alto saxophonist-composer Greg Ward, a longtime sideman on Chicago’s avant-garde scene, steps out on his own with his band Fitted Shards. The group deftly straddles an inside-outside aesthetic on the opening “Segue,” beginning with harsh blasts of dissonance before resolving to a catchy Weather Report-ish theme. Before settling into a steady groove that showcases Ward’s lyrical alto work, “All In” travels from opening bombast to percolating polyrhythmic undercurrent to chops-busting unison lines. Add in the tumultuous title track, the synth-laden “Fitted Shards,” the somber meditation “Step Forward”—which suddenly erupts into death-metal intensity and skronk-fueled rage—and you get a fiercely uncompromising band that steadfastly refuses to be categorized. Punk-jazz, anyone?