Steve Cardenas: West of Middle

A reliable sideman with Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Bop, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra and Ben Allison’s groups, guitarist Steve Cardenas steps out with his third stellar release as a leader. A highly interactive trio session with bassist Allison and the vibrant young drummer Rudy Royston, West of Middle has the guitarist going the free-rider route on the spiky, Ornette Coleman-inspired “Roundup,” and covering Keith Jarrett’s “Blue Streak” with an intense, John Scofield-ish bite. Elsewhere, the band grooves leisurely on “Backroad,” explores layered atmospherics on “Drifter” and strikes a delicate accord on the ballad “Spindle.” Cardenas also pays homage to his Kansas City roots on the heartland-evoking title track.