Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Arcana: Arc of the Testimony [Axiom/Island, 1997]
Expecting some avant-ambient acid jazz venture, you put it on and wonder why the other guys can't be this smart. Then you check the personnel and decide it's because these aren't actually avant-ambient acid jazz guys--just Bill Laswell indulging his fondness for post-Coltrane saxophone and post-Hendrix guitar. But since Laswell has long explored these tastes with depressingly competent results, you transfer credit to the late Tony Williams. Unfortunately, Williams hadn't been making such focused records either. So, with Buckethead and Nicky Skopelitis ruled out as decisive variables, the secret comes down to this: Pharoah Sanders doing his thing, Graham Haynes being told what his is. A-