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Free blowing often inspires traffic and automotive metaphors — all those horns — and these 14 cuts suggest one more: five musicians playing as if respecting a four-way stop. This album was released on a Vermont label, and is the packaging ever misleading. Melanie Powell's cover painting is as serenely vague upside down as it is right side up, while the album title (in large type) evokes the new age racks or a movie soundtrack. But before you pass it by, check the fine print for the artists' names. Joseph Jarman's tenor saxophone and Leroy Jenkins' violin are better known from two important jazz outfits, respectively, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Revolutionary Ensemble. This time, Jarman's other axes include ceramic flutes, bass flute, "hands" (sic), some rather useless chimes and gongs, and the mysterious Isan. Jenkins swaps his violin for a harmonica on a few cuts, as well as playing kalimba, but that violin makes a great foil for the rather stiff timbre of Jarman's ceramic flutes. And a little stiffness proves to be a virtue this time. For one instance, the long cut "Rain Forest" is both more insidious and more pleasing than mere hypnotic, mellow, ethnic jazz. There's a ceremonial feel to the playing; a stateliness that focuses the improvisations as surely as a handy stopwatch, cordiality co-exists with chaos. There's no woodwind squawking from Jarman, no behind-the-bridge squeaking from Jenkins, and even the prepared piano played by fellow jazz workshopper Myra Melford is pretty. Elsewhere, bassist Lindsay Horner doubles on the fleshiest-sounding penny whistle ever heard. Jeffrey Schanzer's guitar contributes gentle plucked harp dischords to "Prayer at Sea," though he's surprisingly underused even there. The closing "Chanting" sounds like Georgi Lygeti's vocal work "Atmospheres" performed at the humble level of a barbershop quartet, with everyone joining the chant. Melford, Jarman, and Jenkins later recorded under the name of Equal Interest, releasing a self-titled album in 1999.
Born: September 14, 1937 in Pine Bluff, AR
Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s