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NOVEMBER 15, 1999: 

The Hosemobile What Can and Can't Go On (Cuneiform)

Great new music from a label that proudly features a most impressive roster of important experimental artists.

This CD -- the Hosemobile's second -- continually reminds me of Caspar Brötzmann's brainy-yet-brutal work, except What Can and Can't Go On displays more color and considerably more involved arranging than I've heard from Brötzmann. This is the sound of men at work who find themselves vigorously pursuing innovation even while the system (rock music, in this case) in which they labor comes undone.What Can and Can't Go On could be the official CD of the upcoming, heavily advertised Y2K calamity.

There is a wealth of melodic material here, although the strangeness of those melodies in conjunction with the fact that they are embedded within a stern context of frequent cacophonous outbursts ensures that the Hosemobile will never be confused with the Beatles.

Recorded live in the studio, What Can and Can't Go On employs warped metal tones, psychedelia, more than a whiff of prog, occasional jazz time signatures, spacey effects, and other uniquely enlisted elements. All of which makes for an ear-opening journey. Not the sort of fare most of the world expects from four young crackers straight out of Cookeville, Tennessee. -- Stephen Grimstead

Tom Harrell Time's Mirror (RCA)

Over the years, trumpeter/flugelhornist Tom Harrell has gained a reputation as one of the most original, compelling, and cliché-free improvisers in jazz. His resume includes stints with Stan Kenton's and Woody Herman's big bands. He toured with Horace Silver's bop outfit in the early '70s, then played with the Mel Lewis Orchestra, George Russell's big band, and Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra. He also co-led a big band with Sam Jones, not to mention his oft-heralded years in Phil Woods' combo. Harrell also has a string of respected solo albums under his belt and has played a number of guest appearances on recordings by Joe Lovano, Jim Hall, Steve Swallow, Thomas Chapin, Don Braden, and others.

Amazingly, the 53-year-old Harrell has accomplished all this despite suffering from schizophrenia, which he fights with strong medication. By all accounts, his condition makes Harrell appear withdrawn and detached on stage, and he's used to letting his extremely expressive and lyrical horn playing speak for him.

While the jazz world has long been mesmerized by Harrell's playing and composing, Time's Mirror adds another dimension to Harrell's impressive recorded legacy, this time bringing his skills as an arranger to the fore. Harrell has been compiling the charts that constitute Time's Mirror for the last 35 years. Time's Mirror, however, marks the first time that Harrell has brought these big-band arrangements into the studio. The result is a diverse big-band romp, full of emotive ensemble work and fine improvisations from Harrell, saxophonists Don Braden, Craig Bailey, and Alex Foster, as well as pianist Xavier Davis and trombonist Conrad Herwig.

Harrell's arranging skills show a fine grasp of nuance and subtlety. He's adept at scoring works that simultaneously sparkle with rich contrasts of timbre and complementary horn voicings, and he accomplishes this across a wide range of moods and tempos. Scored for an 18-piece band, Harrell's arrangements include a bright version of his tune "Shapes," with various interwoven horn voicings, and a new Harrell selection, "Daily News," with rumbling, lower register horn lines that Harrell's solo skitters across. After a beautiful piano introduction over the gentle Latin beat, "Sao Paulo" slowly escalates into a series of solos punctuated with sharp horn riffs. The title track is an elegant ballad with gorgeous horn voicings, while "Train Shuffle" wraps the CD up with a rollicking beat and superlative improvisations.

Harrell has also arranged a few Johnny Mercer tunes, including a beautiful version of the seasonal favorite "Autumn Leaves," flush with warmly voiced counter-melodies set against the melody, as well as a delicate reading of Mercer's "Dream." There's also a bouncing, multilayered arrangement of Charlie Parker's classic "Chasin' the Bird." Long appreciated as a composer and soloist, Time's Mirror adds another category in which Harrell excels: that of arranger. -- Gene Hyde

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