Hard Cora

Until cancer claimed his life in 1998, cellist Tom Cora was a mainstay of New York's creative jazz scene. On It's a Brand New Day, compiled by Cora's friend and colleague John Zorn, the cellist is joined by many of his peers, including clarinetist Don Byron, guitarist Fred Frith, accordionist Zeena Parkins and trumpeter Dave Douglas.

As with much of the New York jazz scene from which these artists spring, the flavors and moods on It's a Brand New Day are as varied as the city's boroughs. Catherine Jauniaux sings on opener "Passing" (RealAudio excerpt), sounding like a cross between a cabaret chanteuse and classical singer Meredith Monk. Cora's cello and Hahn Rowe's violin strike a decidedly dramatic chord, occasionally sending out shrill flourishes as Jauniaux trills and chimes, alternately improvising and adhering to the vocal theme.

"High Sidewalk" (RealAudio excerpt) is made up of straight-ahead rock rhythms often on the verge of falling apart. Alto saxophonist George Cartwright combines post-bop and free-jazz aesthetics as Cora responds with high-pitched passages and electronic manipulations.

"Les Instants Chavires" creates a dense Moroccan-inspired tapestry before dissolving into pianist Wayne Horvitz's free passages. Cora and Horvitz funnel upward in a heated flurry of notes, Cora contorting his cello to sound like a squawking saxophone.

In the album's final piece, a Cora solo, his playing sometimes resembles both a Malian koto and a jazz bass.