Alexander Von Schlippenbach, Paul Dunmall, Paul Rogers, Tony Bianco: Vesuvius

This sort of free-associative collective improvisation used to be a blow against jazz convention; today it’s a convention in and of itself. Vesuvius consists of two long free blows. Tenor saxophonist Paul Dunmall has sheets-of-sound chops and a subtle manner of shading his lines. He plays hard yet surprisingly clean, given the manic quality that’s never far beneath the surface. Pianist Alex Von Schlippenbach is similarly restive and just as coherent. Drummer Tony Bianco musters excitement without overwhelming the ensemble. Paul Rogers is a commanding bassist–not just in terms of facility but also when it comes to producing a range of unusual sounds.

Both tracks say what they have to say with conviction. The first, “Salamander,” is a rather typical exercise in high-energy “balls to the wall”-ism; “Leviathan,” on the other hand, concerns itself more with contrasts of color and texture and is arguably the more interesting. Conceptually blah, the set’s nevertheless exceptional for the combination of grace and intensity.