Pachora
Unn
Knitting Factory (www.knittingfactory.com)

This emerging group of American musicians seductively blend the free-form looseness of jazz with melodies and rhythms from Eastern Europe, Turkey, Greece and Morocco. Despite their often-energetic playing, the overall sound here is somewhat muted. While the playing is exceptional and often done at breakneck speeds, this is neither a dance album nor one that demands serious listening; it is lively without being brash.

While the group's members play in other Downtown avant-jazz ensembles, they seem to have reserved a special shared sensibility for Pachora. Chris Speed's sinuous clarinet is, at times, reminiscent of klezmer music, while Brad Shepik's playing of the electric saz (a Turkish lute) gives several tunes their Middle Eastern flavor. Percussionist Jim Black's urgent work on the dumbek and trap drums sends the musical compass spinning. And while his is not an upfront instrument, Skuli Sverrisson pulls Pachora's sound together as well as urging it on with his nimble bass.

Giving new life to jazz with their quiet fire, Pachora is one of those rare groups whose sound seems familiar but is simultaneously singular. Eschewing kitsch and concentrating on its elegant musicianship, Pachora gives worldbeat fusion a good name. - Marty Lipp

Hollow Ear