Yes ‘Zigsaw’. Both a single track and a piece that doubles as an album, it runs to more than a double symphony in length. Back in the summer Steve Lampert told marlbank shedding light on the way he sees things: “The piece is a metaphor for dreams I’ve had, sometimes of surreal character, which zigzag along in puzzle-like continuities. Stylized episodes return in these dreams but they always bear a transformed content somewhat like jigsaw puzzle pieces which have similar or even identical shapes while presenting differing parts of the overall image to which they contribute.” Beyond the poetry of Lampert’s description, a stab at what it sounds like: a lop sided sense of atonal funk is offset by relatively accessible keyboard electro relief. An odd strangulated vocalising emerges out of nowhere like a revenant. Now read on. The dazzling element is our hero John O’Gallagher, a hugely gifted US avant gardist who has been teaching in Birmingham in recent years and who in his ferocious alto saxophonoetry propels Zigsaw into an elliptical orbit that freewheels far out into the deep yonder. The crowd scenes, soloists flit in and out of being in the melée, are filled by a septet who are always there or thereabouts (full personnel: Preminger, Jason Palmer, John O’Gallagher, Kris Davis, Rob Schwimmer, Kim Cass, Rudy Royston: instrumentation is tenor saxophone, trumpet, alto saxophone, piano, Haken continuum/clavinet, bass, drums). The piece does not have an easily discernible narrative but that does not matter given that this is abstract music although structurally it is very robust. I am thinking of the sound of Don Cherry in my head certainly when Jason Palmer plays and more so throughout hints of Steve Coleman-like MBASE in the episodes when avant funk takes hold and Royston starts to curl the sound into an open space, letting his groove fall and paddle behind the beat. Then there is the cry of the blues when O’Gallagher is wailing and that is where the album and the composition works best and inspires some great responses from the players who do not rely on set phrases in their improv. There is a lot going on here, a good deal of imaginative improvisation embedded within the writing, and it is fundamentally as engrossing as pulp fiction. Put “the book” down? Only after the unguessable end. SG

Now streaming via Bandcamp **** recommended