Ion Zoo Venus Looks Good

When done at a high artistic level, improvising is a high-wire act without a net. For instrumentalists, it involves finding the right notes, rhythms, register, tone and more, all on the fly. But making "sense" in a linear, narrative way isn't an issue. But for a vocalist, all of the above apply, plus trying to say something that we can comprehend and relate to, all on the spur of the moment. So when Ion Zoo vocalist Carol Sawyer starts riffing about some squirrels in "animals in my attic," well, it's instantly intriguing. And the responsiveness of bassist Clyde Reed and the completely appropriate rattling on percussion by reediest Steve Bagnell and inner-pianisms by Lisa Cay Miller all make the squirrelly tale come to life. Miller rips into the lower end of the piano on "Storgaten," yielding to some chewed-up, syllabic improv, then tiny-voiced background scatting, followed by fast-motion soprano sax by Bagnell ― lightening-fast invention. Zoo incorporates elements of new music, as in "Entropy," which has resonances of Lotte Lenya and Webern Lieder, and Boulez piano sonatas, as well as jazz, in the soundtrack to a hallucinatory cabaret on "At The Post." Bagnall's baritone sax ups the intensity quotient on "Kinda Like Giants," offset by Sawyer's restrained, passionate lyricism. Venus Looks Good's 18 tracks contain an abundance of sound worlds. (OPENFORMaudio)