Alex Coke, Tina Marsh, Steve Feld, Ron Westray, and Joe LoCascio
Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Sept. 19, 2008
The new collaborative album from veteran Austin compadres Alex Coke, Tina Marsh, and Steve Feld, It's Possible (Voxlox), is fearless in its vision and certainly not for novices. Portions of this challenging set of improvised music are reminiscent of abstract sound collages from Chicago AACM pioneer Roscoe Mitchell, but reedman Coke and vocalist Marsh, who have dialogued musically for years and developed an intimate language, landmark recognizable touchstones – Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," Charles Mingus' "Eclipse," and Harry T. Burleigh's "Deep River" – to which they give their own unique spin. Their duos are augmented subtly by Feld's melodic and percussive ashiwa bass box, the four-tune medley "Steve Lacy Suite" a fitting tribute to an improvisational master and mentor. Definitely more in a mainstream groove is the tuneful set of originals from trombonist Ron Westray, Medical Cures for the Chromatic Commands of the Inner City (Blue Canoe). Former member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and current assistant professor in jazz studies at the University of Texas, Westray shares a front line here with formidable LCJO allies trumpeter Ryan Kisor and saxophonist Walter Blanding Jr. All the tunes are short and of medium or slow tempo, emphasizing the rich harmonies and soulful group ambience over individual firepower. Westray gives himself a bit of solo space on "Pow Wow" and "Sun Day" to exude a warm, amber tone. Those who like solo piano albums in the contemplative, ECM mold will savor Joe LoCascio's latest, Ghosts (Blue Bamboo Music). The Houston vet lends his considerable talent to an intimate collection of 13 beautifully executed originals that's less pristine but livelier than the Nordic chill of his European counterparts. Despite interludes of animated activity on "Crumbling Divinity," "One I Hope to Love," and "Nightingales," the overall lack of variation tends to transform its meditative qualities into somnolent ones.