Reedist Dick Wood is something of a legend in the Californian new jazz scene, described as an “inimitable musician / raconteur / provocateur and general disseminator of freewheeling artistry, love and cuisine” by Nels Cline. In this long-awaited release he fronts a quintet whose members can extract improvising material from a pinhead and make you feel they’re having a lot of fun doing it. The leader’s alto flirts and tussles with Dan Clucas’s cornet and flute impressively throughout, their heterogeneous conjunctions and vixenish allusions steeped in knowledge of the past. But putting the hype of the press release aside (practically the entire history of music is namechecked, though Sun Ra, Zappa and Mingus might be vague indications of where this stuff is heading), what’s exciting in Not Far From Here is how, on close listening, one can size up the individual participants’ contribution to the collective interplay. Marty Mansour’s drumming waits for events to unfold, creating suggestions and spaces for the musicians to dive in, while bassist Hal Onserud’s punchy clusters and the Supercollider-fueled unpredictability of Mark Trayle’s electronics push the energy levels even higher. It’s a spicy recipe, combining playing at exceptional technical heights with amusing ironic twists and genre-dissolving disengagement.


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