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Leroy Jenkins’ Driftwood: The Art of Improvisation

No AACM’er has done the classical-jazz-world music fusion better than Leroy Jenkins. This album presents the violinist at his homespun/highbrow best. Featuring a string-centric lineup of Jenkins, pianist Denman Maroney, pipa player Min Xiao-Fen and percussionist Rich O’Donnell, it was recorded live in 2004 at an AACM concert in New York City.

Tempo markings are given if not explicitly followed; the music is heavily if not totally improvised. Maroney is unusually perceptive when it comes to timbre and admirably restrained when it comes to finding a place in the ensemble. Xiao-Fen is similarly egoless. She functions almost as a guitarist would, adding a percussive melodicism, playing postmodern Reinhardt to Jenkins’ free-jazz Grappelli. O’Donnell’s percussion interacts like a melodic instrument. He too has a keen sense of timbre and a powerful if slightly crooked manner of generating rhythmic intensity.

Jenkins is typically excellent. Individually the four players are marvelous; collectively they are something special. This is a beautiful work.

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