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  Listen Up! 5/12/03 Listen Up!

Monday, May 12

Art Ensemble of Chicago, “The Alternative Express,” DIW Records. It’s 1989, and the Art Ensemble has been carrying on for darn near 25 years. I saw these guys live a few times, and they were always exhilarating. That exhilaration rarely translated to record, but the exploratory use of sounds and connections between sounds and jazz mixed with barely comprehensible influences from exotic cultures is always at least interesting. This record isn’t their best, nor is it their worst. It’s one of dozens of examples of what these guys did. You pretty much already know if you’re gonna want to hear it or not. “Kush” is the most interesting (and longest) piece on here. For a long time, it sounds like an organic prototype for 90s drum’n’bass records, or at the very least an Art Ensemble response to the then current Wax Trax sounds on the other side of Chicago. Crazy percussion and insistent drones on the sax and trumpet. Then comes the frenetic modern traffic sounds, as the sax and trumpet start speeding all over the place, changing lanes frequently, and occasionally recalling the 1920s jazz tradition of making horns honk. Then, suddenly, they’re out of traffic, and reeling down the straight-away, still honking occasionally, but more out of exhilaration than frustration. Bowie and Jarman are talking to each other a mile a minute, while the bass and percussion keep the engine roaring.

The Flaming Sideburns, “Save Rock’n’Roll,” Jetset Records. I don’t know about saving, but these Swedes (or Danes or some sort of Nordic guys) do have a feel for that raw, aggressive, exuberant garage sound. Harder and less hooky than the Hives, these guys only know one way of rocking, but staying true to their strength, their way feels really good to me. I’d go see them live in a minute.

Erik Truffaz, “The Walk of the Giant Turtle,” Blue Note Records. This four piece jazz band makes a lot of noise, mostly thanks to Patrick Muller’s intriguing use of sonic explosives on keyboards. Definitely a lot of Miles Davis “Bitches Brew” influence here, as the pieces roar and rumble and throb. Also, a lot of lyrical passages featuring Truffaz’s trumpet. Interesting record.

--Steve Pick

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