When jazz records give a glimpse of the recording process, it's usually a short snippet—a sonic haiku that encapsulates the session, like Miles Davis imperiously ordering pianist Red Garland, "Block chords, Red!"

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The little-known "Mai Ding" on Sahib Shihab and the Danish Radio Jazz Group (Oktav) begins with the most brilliant glimpse I have yet heard. Out of nowhere a voice bellows, "Okay, here we go, top!" After some silence and a strummed stray bass note or two, the same voice implores, "Come on now, fellas!" An indecipherable voice interjects something over the intercom, the cowbell rattles a bit, and a stick tumbles to the ground. Other voices laugh, spurring a frenetic cowbell solo that in turn propels a driving baritone saxophone riff.

The various voices, bright reverb, and long pauses place "Mai Ding" among the few successful combinations of straight-ahead jazz and electronic sound. Alas, too few jazz fans will recognize Sahib Shihab as an ex-sideman for the legendary Thelonious Monk, however, Sahib Shihab and the Danish Radio Jazz Group reveals a first-rate arranger, composer, and as I learned, cowbell player. Recorded in 1965, the disc is filled with winning tunes like "Mai Ding," the stuttering vibes and sax of "Di-Da," the waltzlike "Harvey's Tune," and "Not Yet," which sports a superb Freddie Hubbard–esque solo by Palle Mikkelborg, who two decades later arranged the album Aura for Miles Davis.

A live concert recorded in 1971 by Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of the Breath, Eclipse at Dawn (Cuneiform) also boasts a marvelous intro. British saxophonist and club owner Ronnie Scott casually introduces the 11-piece band. "Most of the guys in the band come from England. The rest of them come from South Africa, which is," Scott pauses, aiming a wicked barb at the notorious apartheid regime, "a wonderful place to come from."

The band laughs and launches into a joyous mix of township rhythms and straight-ahead swing, all harried by quicksilver bursts of skidding saxophones and trombones. A kind of subtropical free jazz permeates the entire disc. I love the rollicking "Now," a bop number that would have suited both Soft Machine and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in their prime.

Finally, I spent much of the summer savoring The Webster Cycles (Cold Blue) by Seattle sound artist and recent Mayor's Arts Award winner Steve Peters. Chiefly known for providing a home for "wayward music" at the Chapel Performance Space in Wallingford, Peters's own work stakes out meditative spaces for listening. Written "for any combination of wind instruments or voices," the overlapping trombones heard in The Webster Cycles immerse you in 30 minutes of incantatory bliss—imagine floating into an ocean-sized harbor bounded by distant foghorns. Essential. recommended

Classical, Jazz & Avant Calendar

Thurs 9/11

COMMUNITY FOR NORMAL AND MENTAL HEALTH

Not a nonprofit org, but a volcanic trio fronted by Paul Hoskin, one of the instigators of the venerable Seattle Improvised Music Festival. He's joined by two mainstays of the weekly jam session at the Blue Moon, keyboardist Matt Norman and Ethan Cudaback on drums. Expect, in Hoskin's words, "a trio which displaces as much as possible." Beacon Pub, 3057 Beacon Ave S, 726-0238, 9 pm, free.

Fri 9/12

SEATTLE SYMPHONY OPENING WEEKEND

Although the symphony's season officially starts on Saturday, this budget-priced preview concert serves up morsels by Berlioz, Rimsky-Korsakov, Copland, and others. The Sat Sept 13 gala at 8 pm features Frederica von Stade and bass Samuel Ramey singing an assortment of opera excerpts (notably from Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust), songs by Jake Heggie, and probably ill-advised show tunes. Sunday's free "Day of Music and Art" runs from 10 am to 6 pm with dozens of performers and groups (Northwest Mahler Orchestra, Greenwood Concert Band, Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, Seattle Men's Chorus, etc.) distributed among Benaroya Hall, Seattle Art Museum, and the Triple Door. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 215-4747, 7 pm, $20.

Sun 9/14

BYRON VANNOY'S MERIDIAN

Vannoy, one of the busiest jazz drummers in town, celebrates the release of Byron Vannoy's Meridian (Bioticmusic). While the disc admirably continues the limpid explorations charted on Miles Davis's still-fertile Filles de Kilimanjaro with tunes like "Fathoms" and "Found," I'm equally delighted by Vannoy's solo drum pieces. Interspersed as five "Excursions" throughout Meridian, the short, smartly paced solos testify concisely to Vannoy's melodic and rhythmic gifts. It sounds crazy, but I wish some label would round up Vannoy, Clarence Acox, Greg Campbell, and a slew of other local drummers for an album of short drum solos. Seattle Drum School, 12510 15th Ave NE, 364-8815, 2 pm, $10/$20 with CD.

JACOB FRED JAZZ ODYSSEY

This jazz-rock group veers from spacey atmospheres leavened with dubbed-out echoes to mutated beats sired by hiphop and drum 'n' bass. Two kindred acts share the bill: STEBMO and Das Vibenbass, a sax and vibes-fronted quartet with a penchant for short, funky motifs, accelerating tempos, and unexpected detours. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave NW, 789-3599, 9 pm, $10.

BAKER/HEANEY/REA

Ah, a guitar trio with no bass and no drums, just electric guitars. Fretless guitarist Tom Baker teams up with Brain Heaney of the out-jazz group Sunship and composer Dennis Rea. Together they make attentive, open counterpoint rooted in freely improvised music, microtonality, electro-acoustic textures, and the blues. Blue Moon Tavern, 712 NE 45th St, 675-9116, 9 pm, free.

Tues 9/16

VAASA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

I have never heard this Finnish orchestra, yet Finland's world-class commitment to funding classical music conservatories makes this concert a solid bet. On the docket: the Suite de Gismonti for accordion and orchestra by Egberto Gismonti, Sibelius's take on Pelleas et Melisande, and pieces by Väinö Raitio, a Finnish composer of the early 20th century who composed symphonic poems influenced by Scriabin. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave, 800-838-3006, 8 pm, $10/$15.

Wed 9/17

SINATRA AT THE SANDS

Sinatra tribute singer Joey Jewell and Jim Kerl's Swing Session big band revive songs from the legendary Sinatra at the Sands LP, complete with Quincy Jones's original arrangements. The Triple Door, 216 Union St, 838-4333, sets at 7 and 9:30 pm, $20/$22.