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The Contemporary Jazz Quintet: Actions 1966-’67

The Contemporary Jazz Quintet-Hugh Steinmentz, trumpet; Franz Beckerlee, alto saxophone; Niels Harrit, saw; Steffen Andersen, bass; Bo Thrige Andersen, drums-was a noisy free-jazz group active during the 1960s and in thrall of the era’s Albert Ayler-inspired zeitgeist. Actions 1966-67 is a reissue of the Danish quintet’s first album. It’s notable mostly for the unintentionally comic use of the musical saw, which sounds like a Theremin with a smaller tessitura and a stunted capacity for expression. On most of the five freely improvised tracks, the saw dominates-even dictates-the group sound. The horn players mimic its relentless quavering to wretched excess.

Steinmetz is the more interesting of the two horns, if just barely. His spirit is willing but his chops are nondescript. Beckerlee’s primary means of generating movement is an “ecstatic” out-of-control multiphonic shriek; his fingers are heavy, his articulations crude. The rhythm section fares better. Drummer Bo Thrige Andersen generates dense waves of rhythmic activity with grace and power. Bassist Steffen Andersen is capable with the bow, and his pizzicato work adds rhythmic and melodic detail, countering somewhat the relentless squalling of the horns and saw. The Andersens can’t redeem the mess, however. Granted, Harrit’s saw contributes a novel timbre, but novelty doesn’t equal quality.

Originally Published