Cosmosamatics: Three

On previous discs, the Cosmosamatics (Sonny Simmons, alto sax and English horn; Michael Marcus, saxello and baritone sax; Jay Rosen, drums) used a bassist. On Three (Boxholder), they do not. Most of Simmons’ and Marcus’ clever, Steve Lacy-ish tunes require a steady, swinging pulse-the kind of songs that sound best with a bass player. Without one, time-keeping responsibilities fall on the drummer’s shoulders alone. Asking such a supremely interactive drummer as Rosen to simply play time is a bit like having Barry Bonds bunt with the bases loaded: He can do it, but you’re not exactly making the most of his gift. Still, there’s much about this latest record to recommend. Simmons’ English horn playing is a treat; it sounds something like a thin-toned soprano sax, but is arguably much more difficult to control. Simmons brings to it the same skill and roughneck passion that he does the alto. Marcus is a fine, expressive player as well. Rosen makes for a good Shelly Manne, but I’d rather the band add a bassist and let him mix it up more.