You’re forgiven for thinking this might be a collection of AC/DC covers. Despite the title, For Those About to Jazz/Rock, We Salute You is an album of avant-garde jazz by Bad Plus drummer Dave King’s outfit Vector Families. The quartet, with saxophonist Brandon Wozniak, guitarist Dean Granros and bassist Anthony Cox, makes a hybrid of free-jazz and punk that may have once sounded weird but has become commonplace. And in the hands of these guys, it actually sounds timid.
Maybe the title sets the bar too high, but For Those About to Jazz/Rock, We Salute You is neither as innovative as it could have been nor as aggressive you’d expect it might be. The musicians seem afraid to push things too far. They noodle around for nine minutes on “10,000-Year-Old Rotary Club” before the music starts to cohere. Once it does it gets duly intense, but it takes too long to get there. King is often his typically muscular self, bashing the stuffing out of the kit on “Free Funk!,” which is indeed funky but more structured than its name implies. “Duetz Duetz”—a series of duets, including one with Cox on cello and Granros on acoustic guitar—falls flat because nobody seems to know what to do. The most compelling of the six tunes is a take on Ornette’s “Dee Dee” that begins as bop and veers into avant-garde territory. On the other hand, the worst track is also a cover—a deconstruction of Ellington’s “Satin Doll” that features Granros playing “piano” through a video-game controller. It sounds, appropriately enough, like a child’s playing.