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Ron Brown/Lou Grassi Quartet: Scratching the Surface

There was a time in the early post-Coleman days of the “new thing” that even its devotees felt more performance editing would save the music from burnout. The prominence of long pyrotechnical solos in the overtone series became challenged by carefully constructed “outside” forays into sound textures, “sound paintings,” and the “free-bop” that somehow became derailed. These options continue in another generation’s interests in structural and sonoric detail, in provocatively fragmented narrations inspired by the AACM, B.A.G., the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, and others.

These four CDs deliver artistic visions that depart from and return via differing paths to some of this fragmented spontaneity where surprise holds sway. The 4tet of Scratching the Surface, alto, tenor, bass, and drums, visits surging expositions on “Triangle,” featuring Assif Tsahar’s driving tenor, and “Unitarians.” Both “Stray Arrow” and the longest piece, “3 Rings,” are tempo ballads, with altoist Brown exploring the flutey possibilities on the latter. As you begin listening, “The Arc” has an almost ’50s West Coast quality in its studied lyricism.

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