John Zorn's Cobra - Budapest, Hungary May 21, 2006: Cobra is one of John Zorn's stranger ensembles, according to Wikipedia, "There are classes of cues, each with an associated body part and color, for changing the ensemble, solo and duo improvisational games, "cartoon trades" for fast intercuts between players, varying one dimension (music, ensemble, or volume), live sampling, and endings. There are a total of 19 basic cues. In addition, there are "guerilla systems" with "tactics" that may disrupt the ongoing proceedings." Without being there to actually see the action, the music comes across as a strange mix of jazz, gypsy music and spacey prog-rock. It builds to an ominous tension that never seems to resolve itself, as instruments like wildly scratched violin, booming bass or Hendrixian guitar bubble out of the mix, if anything it sounds like a mashup between the Masada String Trio and the quieter - spacier moments of an Electric Masada performance.
Chick Corea with Avishai Cohen and Jeff Ballard - Tralfamadore Cafe; Buffalo, NY November 27, 2000: This is a very nice trio concert with all three band members given a chance to stretch out and everybody sounding comfortable either soloing or improvising together. Corea is the star, obviously and plays very well, but special attention should be paid to Ballard who layers many different rhythmic ideas throughout the concert and sounds great. He locks in with the always interesting Cohen and their boss to make a very percussive piano trio. A big treat is the three Monk tunes all of which are played with a great deal of wit and energy. The percussive nature of the band really lends a nice touch to the Iberian flavored versions of "Anna's Tango" and Corea's classic "Spain."
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Le Rex – Wild Man (Cuneiform, 2015) ****
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