Muffins Bandwidth

This is the first new recording in 20 years from "the finest progressive band America produced," according to Fred Frith, The prog elements are few and faint now, but the group has retained its strength for welding disparate jazz elements onto its rock framework. The quartet freely roams from the dirty double reed and bass groove opener "Walking the Duck" (resembling, if anything, Morphine's swampy sound) to lighter, more oxygen-filled pieces like "Dear Mona." Sudden shifts in mood, as in "People in the Snow," are easily handled by the swapping of wind instruments from alto to soprano sax then over to flute, going from propulsive joy to melancholy within a five-minute stretch. All the while a playful attention to melody gives the album an accessibility that makes the few "difficult" elements less off-putting. In fact, fans of the Cuneiform label may be slightly disappointed, finding more Weather Report than King Crimson in the mix. (Cuneiform)