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Critic's Choice

As respectively insular and non-communicative as Houston's underground-rock and jazz communities traditionally have been, there's a happy breakthrough in the tenuous bond that's being formed between the Warehouse District's Catal Huyuk/Harvey's Club Deluxe and the avant-jazz troubadours associated with New York's Knitting Factory club and record label. Last year, Catal pulled off a largely unheralded coup by bringing the relatively trad trio of Medeski, Martin and Wood to town for a gig that left the usual gang of assorted slackers dragging their jaws, the local jazz community largely unawares and those who saw the show yammering its virtues. MM&W are scheduled to return to Harvey's June 10, so mark your calendars.

More immediately, though, Harvey's has booked Dallas-born jazz fiddler Jim Nolet, and my money says it'll be more of the same: magical but under-attended.

Nolet is a classically trained violinist and improviser with a free-jazz bent and a frighteningly stern visage that reflects his compositional prowess even as it belies the musical humor he exhibits on his first solo outing, With You. Anyone who's only familiar with Nolet's work as a prolific sideman and member of the Jazz Passengers should check it out, if not for the sheer wacked beauty of the thing itself, then to see what a debut disk should, in a perfect world, be.

Nolet's lineup includes, among others, David Murray on bass clarinet, Brad Jones on bass, Bern Nix on guitar and Sadao Harada on cello for an intimate, string-heavy, sometimes haunting record that veers from the tight trio sound of Nolet, Jones and slide guitarist David Tronzo to horn/violin duels that border on chaos. "Aurora" steps into a spine-tingling flamenco workout, and "Spirits for Sharon Z." layers Nolet's unconventional fiddle work over African Pygmy music polyrhythms. The disk also makes unfaithful cover nods to Thelonius Monk's "Reflections" and Charlie Mingus' "Self-Portrait in 3 Colors," but the album is wholly Nolet's own.

These things remain uncertain on shoestring tours, but Nolet's touring trio has been known to consist of Newman Baker on drums and Glenn Moore on bass. If you're looking for violin in the realm of avant-jazz, your options are limited, and this won't be happening in Houston often, so you know what to do. Highly recommended.

-- Brad Tyer

The Jim Nolet Group performs at 8 p.m. sharp, Thursday, May 26 at Harvey's Club Deluxe, 2524 McKinney, 223-4705. $7.

Also Recommended:
*Little Sister at the Satellite Lounge, Thursday, May 26.
*Killer Bees at Yaga's, Friday, May 27.
*Lucy's Fur Coat at Goat's Head Soup, Friday, May 27.
*Sheila E at Rockefeller's, Saturday, May 28.

*Depeche Mode, Primal Scream and Stabbing Westward at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Wednesday, June 1.

 
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