Oh no. Is Gunther Schuller really back again with more Third Stream music--that frequently failed attempt to blend jazz and classical music that brought the gifted composer and academician to the attention of the jazz audience in the '50s and '60s?
Fortunately not, or, at least, not exactly. And that's probably for the best, since this co-op outing with saxophonist Lovano--Schuller's first jazz effort in more than three decades--reveals a rich understanding of the subtleties of jazz that was not always apparent in his earlier work.
Schuller has found a choice partner in Lovano, whose dark tone and cutting-edge improvisational style combine well with the kaleidoscopic orchestral sounds that occasionally pop up in Schuller's works, especially so in his three originals.
At least as interesting as the originals, however, are Schuller's arrangements of familiar jazz items such as Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss" and "Chelsea Bridge," and Thelonious Monk's "Crepescule With Nellie." Influenced, to some extent, by Gil Evans in certain areas of his orchestrations, Schuller adds his own unique capacity to create lush, dense, but never syrupy textures for the string and woodwind sections.
Lovano works with the enthusiasm of a player who is enjoying every minute of what he is doing. Doubling (and overdubbing) occasionally on soprano saxophone, percussion and bass clarinet, he whips around freely from be-bop tinged long lines to abstract bursts and snippets of sound and special effects. On several tracks, he improvises with startling effectiveness with singer Judi Silvano. Good stuff, all of it, and a happy indication that the experimental wing of jazz--too long dormant--may be awakening again with a new sense of vigor, awareness and excitement.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good), four stars (excellent).