Rachel Musson/Pat Thomas/Mark Sanders

Shifa: Live At Café Oto
(577)

In the world according to free improv, chemistry among players is a vital aspect of engagement, even when that chemistry also involves moments of tension and argument. On Shifa: Live At Café Oto, the music is an uncompromising and uncharted plunge, as these players converge as a trio for the first time.

Despite the democratic agenda and the tendency for Pat Thomas’ piano to establish pieces and sections, saxophonist Rachel Musson is tantamount to a leader here, commanding a bold, granitic timbre. Better known in Europe than in the States, she’s a force deserving of greater recognition, and here’s proof. The recording, cleanly made in London’s Café Oto, is intriguingly presented: A 20-minute “Improvisation 1 (Part 1)” is separated from the 11-minute second portion, and followed by a furtive seven-minute “Improvisation 2,” all fit neatly onto an LP. For digital consumers, a bonus track offers the fuller vantage of what went down on this one night with an expansive “Improvisation 1 (Unedited)” comprising both bits and restored cuts to boot. At its core, this music manages to be both unhinged and with a collective purpose.