Joel Futterman/Alvin Fielder/Ike Levin: Live at the Blue Monk

Joel Futterman’s fists-of-fury pianism is the most interesting thing about this hard-core free-jazz trio, recorded live in performance at a Portland, Ore. jazz club. Joining the Virginia Beach-based pianist is Mississippi-born drummer Alvin Fielder and Bay Area saxophonist-bass clarinetist Ike Levin. The album is made up of two distinct, freely improvised sets-one short, one long-each arbitrarily divided into individual tracks without pause. Levin is an intense, expressive player. His asymmetrical phrasing and extensive use of pentatonic scales and melodies place him firmly under the ghostly wing of John Coltrane, circa 1967. Fielder does what he always does-colors the ensemble ingeniously and lights a fire under the other instrumentalists. Futterman displays the fast fingers, smarts and primal ferocity that make him one of the better post-Cecil Taylor pianists. His work is typically dense and harmonically obscure, though he plays lyrically in a modal bag for brief stretches. He also plays a decent, if unsubtle, soprano sax. The arc of the group’s performance rises and falls in nice proportion. All have compelling things to say, Futterman in particular. There are slack moments, as there tend to be in sets like this, but overall, this is an impressive accomplishment.