Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Material: Memory Serves [Elektra/Musician, 1982]
Although his angular, slightly hyped-up groove on the instrument is distinctly his own, Bill Laswell is a typical bass player in the most important way: what he expresses depends on who he works with. Beyond drummer Fred Maher and synth threat Michael Beinhorn, his collaborators here include Fred Frith, Sonny Sharrock, and Henry Threadgill augmented by lesser avant-jazzmen. All obviously love the harsh, expansive intelligence of preschlock jazz- (and art-) rock. But their great ideas are rewarding rather than tempting, and they're not exalting either. Nor are they supposed to be. B+