Jazz, reinvented.

A freedom cry of blazing brass soars out of frenetic, hard-thumping bass and explosive cymbal crash. Hardcore chemistry: three cats playing their hearts out, power-trio style. Jazz may no longer be considered "the new thing," but this disc goes a long way toward proving the music is far from dead.

Roy Campbell makes music that hits the soul like a ton of bricks, hard-swinging and emotionally direct yet, unlike a lot of free jazz, unashamed of righteous lyricism. As a trumpeter, he's schooled in the post-bop tradition of Freddie Hubbard--all knotty harmonic complexity and rhythmic punch--yet possessed of an appetite for sounds from around the globe. Like Don Cherry before him, Campbell uses the backdrop of jazz as a canvas, painting in hues of traditional African and Asian music and pure, deep blues. Campbell's outward-bound excursions aren't intended to attack listeners (as is the case with much underground jazz), but rather to fuse diverse musical elements into a cohesive, highly satisfying original form.

In upright bassman William Parker and skin pounder extraordinaire Hamid Drake, Campbell has found possibly the hottest rhythm section working today. The profound skills of each individual player are only heightened by the history these three share. Parker, a veteran of groups led by Cecil Taylor and David S. Ware, began playing with Campbell way back in 1978, the two New Yorkers collaborating whenever they could. Drake met Parker nearly a decade ago after Peter Brötzmann asked the two to join Die Like a Dog, the German sax mauler's tribute to Albert Ayler. It was in the powerhouse, big-band version of this group (to which Portland was treated last summer) that Campbell, Parker and Drake first shared the stage.

Ethnic Stew and Brew is not, however, the slash-and-burn-out jazz one would expect from such beginnings. Rather, it is a different kind of music altogether--one of earthy motifs, compassionate feeling and good ol' funky drive (which Drake dishes up in X-large servings). The trio strips the tunes down to essentials: No sound is gratuitous, every note played for the purpose of pushing the music further. Even when the players pick up indigenous percussion instruments, it is to add to the language of the music and act as a bridge between sections rather than dress their effort in superficial exotica. Much like the classic groups of Coltrane and Mingus, the Pyramid Trio creates uniquely alive music filled with beauty and vitality. (DM)

An emo fright.

If you're guessing heavy riffs and a whiff of Satan, well, you should be so lucky. Ozma is all about well-polished, emo-pop of only the most reprehensibly mundane sort. Standard alt-radio guitars brace flavorless harmonies and a bunch of gutless yelling, while bright, slight keyboards play dress-up in an attempt, one imagines, to add some sort of personality or depth to the sound. Doesn't work. Surprise. Hey, "young-and-stupid" bands are cool--except when they're really just, like, young and stupid. "I've been cheating on you since we broke up/ I've been dreaming of you since I woke up." Ick. I'm going to have nightmares now. (SDS)

(Fat Possum)
A chilling blues statement, rereleased.

One man. One guitar. Off in the distance, a rooster crows. Robert Pete Williams didn't write songs. He created them, off the cuff, in the moment, out of the blues. Born a Louisiana farmer in 1914, later convicted of murder, sentenced to Angola and eventually pardoned, Williams worked his voice and his guitar into utterly unique country. His songs sag under the ponderous burden of hard times in a hard country. Recorded live outside Williams' rural home and originally released in 1971, this record documents the full power of a master. Austere, idiosyncratic and undeniably poetic, this record shows Robert Pete Williams bleeding the blues, slowly. Amazing. (SDS)