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Mujician - Spacetime

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Artist: Mujician

Album: Spacetime

Label: Cuneiform

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

Spacetime, the new record by the British avant-jazz quartet Mujician, has fifteen tracks on it. Fifteen! For a free jazz group, that's a lot. If you're a jazz musician, recording an album with lots of short pieces can have its advantages -- you'll certainly get more radio play than you would if you recorded one or two long tracks, and those who are otherwise open to free jazz sometimes can't take in more than four or five-minute chunks in one sitting anyway.

But, for the free improviser, fifteen pieces also presents problems. First, you've got to have a ton of worthy compositional ideas, and second, you've got to be able to develop them all appropriately while still fitting everything onto one CD. Spacetime features some very inspired playing, but for every good idea, there's an underdeveloped one waiting to be fleshed out.

"4", for example, opens with a lengthy soprano saxophone solo by Barry Guy collaborator Paul Dunmall. The solo begins with a series of pensive two-note motives in which consonant intervallic relationships (major thirds), dissonant relationships (major sevenths) and fragments of blues scales are all treated equally, establishing an ambiguous harmonic framework for the improvisation and taking the steam out of its increasing rhythmic intensity. Three and a half minutes later, Dunmall stops playing and, without any sort of transition, drummer Tony Levin pointlessly finishes the piece with an unaccompanied solo.

Half-assed prepared piano mars "13" -- it sounds as if, for no particular reason, former King Crimson member Keith Tippett simply shoved a playing card between a few of the piano strings. On "1" and "8", the prepared piano idea is fully realized, but, frustratingly, both of these tracks end after around two and a half minutes apiece. Still, Spacetime features plenty to get excited about. Bassist Paul Rogers' ominous droning and Dunmall's swarming, circling, Evan Parkeresque saxophone runs and similarly Parker-like tongue-slapping staccato effects add menace to the otherwise meditative "6", but Mujician are most comfortable when the playing is ferocious and hectic -"15" is propelled by wild, overblowing saxophone, while, on "3", Dunmall and Tippett chase each other around choppy, pointillistic lines that get longer and more frenzied until the piece reaches an explosive climax. Spacetime is a bumpy ride, but tracks like these ensure that it's an exciting one. Hopefully, next time out, they'll completely develop four or five good ideas, rather then spreading themselves too thin with fifteen.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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