Anyone who still believes that "artistic" jazz is a pastime of a snobbish cultural elite that excludes Joe and Jane Bagodonuts ought to listen to the latest opus from drummer-composer Bobby Previte. The Coalition of the Willing finds Previte liberating the "fusion" concept from easy-listening banality; he presents a potent intermingling of jazz improvisation, biting blues riffs, fiercely glistening guitars, taut orchestral-sounding textures, mutant reggae rhythms, and pounding rock thwap.
The songs feature immediate, engaging melodies and pointed, passionate soloing -- no noodling, no tedious self-absorption. "Memory Hole" contrasts Steven Bernstein's mournful trumpet with Stew Cutler's sizzling, Chicago-blues harmonica over a smoldering bed of ominously shimmering organ and spare drums. "Anthem for Andrea" is driven by a dense, Led Zeppelin-like hammer-of-the-gods motif, against which Skerik lets loose some tormented but focused tenor saxophone lightning. "The Ministry of Truth" is like a cross between King Crimson and the Ventures -- dramatic, careening surf music for the apocalypse. Throughout, Previte's drums crackle, and guitarist Charlie Hunter displays a much wider range than on his own albums, jangling like McGuinn and Peter Buck, stinging like Robert Cray. Both foreboding and cathartic, Coalition is a fitting soundtrack for our increasingly tense times.