Primarily known as an avant-garde jazz drummer, Tyshawn Sorey is also an adept classical composer whose music doesn't so much straddle genres as leap over them. Whether playing with his own groups, like his trio with pianist Kris Davis and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, or with such luminaries as trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, Sorey has proven himself a mutative player with a sympathetic ear for highly impressionistic group interplay. So sympathetic, in fact, that he often melds so deeply into the overall group sound that you're left with less a sense of Sorey's own playing than of the group's.
Drummer Billy Cobham was fresh from his success with the Mahavishnu Orchestra when he recorded his debut album, which is still his best. Most of the selections showcase Cobham in a quartet with keyboardist Jan Hammer, guitarist Tommy Bolin, and electric bassist Lee Sklar. Two other numbers include Joe Farrell on flute and soprano and trumpeter Jimmy Owens with guitarist John Tropea, Hammer, bassist Ron Carter, and Ray Barretto on congas. The generally high-quality compositions (which include "Red Baron") make this fusion set a standout, a strong mixture of rock-ish rhythms and jazz improvising.
Violinist Irvine Arditti, pianist Claude Helffer, and the Spectrum ensemble conducted by Guy Protheroe produce consummate performances of the Greek avant-gardist's unwieldy chamber music. If you're familiar with Xenakis's career you'll know he was trained in mathematics and enjoyed a successful career as an architect. Such background might prepare you for the music's preoccupation with line, volume, and form in an unusually abstract way, but it won't prepare you for its visceral, almost primitive power. On Akanthos, the singer Penelope Walmsley-Clark must cope with what is surely one of the most ridiculous soprano parts ever written.