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Borah Bergman, Lol Coxhill, Paul Hession: Acts of Love

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The problem with some contemporary examples of freely improvised music is that the genre has achieved its own level of orthodoxy. If one is blessed/cursed with a sense of history, what seemed cutting-edge 20-something years ago can seem almost reactionary today. Fortunately there are still musicians adept at jolting us jaded types out of our ennui, and Acts of Love presents three: Brooklyn pianist Borah Bergman and, from the U.K., soprano saxophonist Lol Coxhill and drummer Paul Hession.

While there are volatile moments, Acts is marked by both remarkable restraint and contrast. Bergman plays with splintery, thunderous key-cracking, but there are just as many moments of his sublimely tender, spacious lyricism. Coxhill gets positively feral at times with his twittering, tart-toned and gloriously cathartic skronk, but he also wrangles a poignantly blues-descended warble that distills wry world-weariness into a few notes. Hession is often so self-effacing one can almost forget he’s there, yet he wails as convincingly as his compatriots-as crisp and propulsive as Jack DeJohnette and as impressionistic as Paul Motian. Acts of Love is an album for a friend who believes he can’t get into free improv.