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The Nu Band: Live

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This is a solid if ever so slightly disappointing album by a quartet of top-of-the-line New York-based free jazzers: Mark Whitecage, saxes and clarinet; Roy Campbell, Jr., trumpet and flugelhorn; Joe Fonda, bass; and Lou Grassi, drums. While graced with the sort of exalted creativity and professionalism one would expect, the project is compromised by a less-than-optimal recording quality as well as a lack of direction that often typifies the music of cooperative jazz bands. The album was recorded live, probably using a stereo mike connected to a DAT machine or some other portable device. The mike picks up too much of the room, resulting in a distant, overly reverberant sound. Grassi is particularly ill-served. No free jazz drummer makes more creative use of his kit’s low end. The boomy recorded sound obscures the crispness of his tom-tom work, robbing his playing of its characteristic clarity.

Direction is another problem, owing perhaps to the fact that each member contributes compositionally. Put any one of them in charge-or have them play totally free-and this group could burn down an asbestos factory. As it is, there seems to be an overabundance of mutual deference. There’s plenty to sink your teeth into, but the results aren’t quite as good as you’d expect, given the talent involved.