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Various Artists: Vision Vol. 3

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Compiling a representative CD/DVD sampler from the umpteen marathon sets that make up the Vision Festival, New York City’s annual free-jazz bash, must be a Herculean task. Indeed, it surely borders on the impossible. Shrinking so many lengthy improvisations into bite-sized seven-to-10-minute chunks in order to fit the compilation’s condensed format means the formal arc of the performances will be destroyed. That problem plagues this set.

There are hints of transcendence, as you’d expect, given the talent on hand. Violinist Billy Bang’s solo with William Parker’s Jeanne Lee Project lifts an otherwise muddled performance; Bang’s trio with Parker and komungo player Jin Hi Kim is strong. A quartet fronted by trumpeter Roy Campbell and saxophonist Joe McPhee shines, as does a trio with Parker, drummer Andrew Cyrille and the venerable New Orleans saxophonist Kidd Jordan. While Whit Dickey’s quartet and Matt Shipp’s quartet are among those groups victimized by the format, a duo of bassist Harrison Bankhead and saxophonist Fred Anderson is exceptional. The pair’s nine-and-a-half-minute track is a complete, self-contained episode. Both men are masterful.

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