Springheel Jack Amassed

As I write this during baseball's playoffs, it struck me that Amassed has worked out better than Spring Heel Jack's previous album, Masses, not because of a sudden shift in direction, but because of clever roster moves. This disc, just as the previous one, marries electronic processing to live performances but benefits from prior experience in making each collision work. The addition of J. Spaceman on guitar is inspired. His trademark effects-laden noise works so well with Evan Parker's equally trademarked wounded warbling on sax. Matthew Shipp shifts to electric piano here - a wise move, as the Rhodes makes him sound eerie, rather than constricted - and his doomy left hand bombs are replaced by Spring Heel blasts of programming. Paul Rutherford on 'bone is a nice lyrical match to trumpeter Kenny Wheeler's style also, lending this project a decided "English improv" bent. As a result, this is a much more fully realised and "directed" improv than Masses. Not only does no one sound compromised, the participants actually sound like they're getting into it a lot more. This is some quality avant-jazz in anyone's book. The biggest misstep, however, is leaving a sampled loop on autopilot on "Obscured" as everyone wails around it; I'd still like to see Spring Heel Jack combine their renowned rhythmic dexterity with a Han Bennink mania on drums, but they're still holding back from what brought them to prominence in the first place. (Thirsty Ear)