1. Background Music
2. Laced Case
3. Little Big Horse
6. Palo Alto
8. Gallop's Gallop
9. Hoke's Dream
11. Lennie Bird
Jason Stein - Bass clarinet
Keefe Jackson -Tenor sax, contrabass clarinet
Joshua Abrams - Bass
Frank Rosaly - Drums
Here we have an unusual line-up which produces music that is similar to that of Thelonious Monk in its jagged unpredictability. In fact the album includes three Monk tunes: Skippy, which is particularly effective when the bass and drums drop out, leaving the two horns to interweave polyphonically; Gallop's Gallop which suits the wandering style of the quartet; and Work, where the two low clarinets make a deep sound which is both intriguing and ominous.
Unfortunately, Gallop's Gallop degenerates into free improvisation, which is an aspect of several tracks on the CD, resulting in noises like a stuck pig or apparently random notes with little meaning. I am glad to note the influence of Lennie Tristano which is evident in Tristano's Lennie Bird, Warne Marsh's Background Music and Lee Konitz's Palo Alto, but this is marred by the free improv which was admittedly part of Tristano's methods but here lacks his firmer discipline. Background Music captures the Tristano spirit, and Lennie Bird contains some worthwhile counterpoint, but Palo Alto is simply a mess of deranged sounds for its opening section.
The remaining tracks are compositions by Jason Stein himself, mostly following the Monk/Tristano path. The most productive (and longest) track is Little Big Horse, which might well be a Monk composition. Both frontmen contribute tuneful solos. Keefe Jackson's tenor sax has an Albert Ayler quality to it.
This is an album for those who like their jazz to be way-out.
Incidentally, I don't like Delmark's habit of sending me a "promotional copy" of a CD marked "Burned CDR". If I am reviewing an album that will be sold to the public, I want to receive it exactly as the public will get it, not in a secondhand form.