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George Lewis: Endless Shout

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There are enough hyphens in any proper description of George Lewis, the trombonist-composer-software designer-improvisation diehard-pedagogue-intermediaman, etc., that a definitive Lewis album begs for pluralism. That’s exactly what we find on Endless Shout, a must-own Lewis recording that neatly sums up much of what he’s been up to lately, in the tidy, telling space of four pieces and an hour of purposefully varied terrain. Lewis has been working the wavering line between jazz and contemporary classical thinking, and that potentially dangerous polystylistic attitude rings triumphant here. With “North Star Boogaloo,” Lewis overlays fragmented pieces of a sample text by Quincy Troupe with the cerebral, calibrated funk of percussionist Steven Schick’s part (Lewis, Troupe and Schick all share academic digs at UC San Diego). The title piece, circa 1994, is an engaging yet enigmatic notated score for string quartet and pianist Sarah Cahill, while Lewis leans more towards the jazz muse with the roiling sonorities of “Shadowgraph 4,” featuring the Vancouver-based NOW Orchestra. Finally, at recording’s end, he breaks out his horn. “Voyager” is a 20-minute essay in extemporaneous impulses as only Lewis can concoct it, a semivirtual duet between his rangy, smart trombone and his responsive computer program, fondly, and rightly, dubbed “Voyager.” His own voyage continues to be compelling, and, thankfully, impossible to pigeonhole.