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Album Review

For some reason, this record is issued under bassist Dominic Duval's name, but its personality is formed largely by the compositions of trombonist Bob Hovey and the playing of trumpeter Herb Robertson. Indeed, without the melodic constructions of Hovey and the brilliant work of Robertson, this would be just another album of hit-and-miss free improv. Hovey's tunes are offbeat and imaginative — abstractly swinging, with a taste of contemporary classical compositional techniques. They provide a core around which the improvisations coalesce. Hovey's playing is fine as well; he's a chromatic, linear trombonist with a hard, expressive tone. Robertson is simply the finest free jazz trumpeter in the world. His thorough command of the instrument, original conception, and extreme sensitivity to his surroundings are just a few of his many virtues. Robertson knows when to start and finish — when to assert himself, when to pull back (drummer Jay Rosen possesses the same ineffable quality). The cuts credited to Duval and Hovey are, for the most part, less interesting. Most improvisers will tell you that a bit of organizing material — be it melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic — enhances the improvisation. There's little (if any) of that here. Hence, the most compelling thing about the wholly improvised cuts is the use of unusual timbres — the music box on "Lullaby" (around which Robertson improvises effectively), for instance, or Duval's electronic manipulations and Hovey's turntable scratching on the unfortunately titled "Rectal Parasites." The individual playing is of a high caliber on the totally free pieces (Duval is his usual hyper-creative self), but — aside from a couple of bracing climaxes on the final cut — there's little else to distinguish them from the millions of other free improvisations floating around out there in the ozone waiting to be captured on disc. An uneven album, but worth considering on the basis of Robertson's and Hovey's contributions.

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