Matt Steckler Persiflage

Saxophonist Matt Steckler is best known as the leader of the Mingus-goes-punk sextet the Dead Cat Bounce. Persiflage, his solo debut, features a classy New York rhythm section (Michael Cain, Lonnie Plaxico, Pheeroan akLaff) and has a more orthodox sound than the DCB, but Steckler’s passionate delivery and splendidly warped sensibility make this still a pretty heady brew. His tunes often seem to be trying to weave together two grooves simultaneously, achieving a strange combination of forward momentum and self-contradiction: "Unknown Rebel,” for instance, starts as Dolphy arabesques then becomes a blues that never comfortably settles into major or minor, while "Country Rake Fight” has a witty self-consuming opening that blossoms into a monster one-chord jam. Cain’s lucid but slightly offbeat piano solos and the stellar rhythm section work provide an ideal setting for Steckler; trombonist Curtis Fowlkes pops up for a few excellent cameos, too. The results are one of the best small group jazz discs of the past year. (Innova)