Pianist Matthew Shipp and drummer Hamid Drake are among the greatest musicians ever to play avant-garde jazz. Mat Walerian, on the other hand, is almost a complete unknown, having only one other widely distributed album-a duo with Shipp-to his name. But the Polish reedsman, who was 28 when this trio calling itself Jungle recorded Live at Okuden in 2012, fits in perfectly with his mentors.
Walerian-who switches among alto saxophone, bass clarinet, soprano clarinet and flute-is alternately introspective and fiery, and the passion of Jungle at times recalls David S. Ware’s groups. (Shipp and Drake, of course, performed with Ware, and even though Jungle lacks a bass, Ware’s bassist William Parker does have a role here, as the author of the liner notes.)
This two-CD set is broken into 13 tracks, and while they do have composers-Walerian gets most of the credits-they’re freeform and some segue into the next without interruption. They both soothe the soul and make the heart race. Shipp’s trademark thick, assertive chords are ever-present, and Drake draws from many genres (the four bars of rock on “123 Sylvester 230CE” are wholly unexpected) to inform his restless drumming. Walerian, for his part, is working hard to develop his voice. He’s obviously been studying Ware, Coltrane and their ilk, and while it’s too soon to make any grand proclamations, he’s on his way to becoming a free-jazz force.