Classically trained journeyman violinist Mark Feldman has taken high-impact turns in sundry settings, from Dave Douglas's eclectic ensembles to performances and/or recordings with John Zorn, They Migh

Classically trained journeyman violinist Mark Feldman has taken high-impact turns in sundry settings, from Dave Douglas's eclectic ensembles to performances and/or recordings with John Zorn, They Might Be Giants, Johnny Cash and scores of Nashville artists. His simultaneously earthy and refined sound, sophisticated improvisations and intelligent adaptability never fail to elevate the artistry of any particular project.

Feldman steps out front for "What Exit," his first CD for ECM as a leader, and it's an engaging, sometimes challenging mix of avant-jazz and new-classical styles. The Brooklyn native is joined by British pianist John Taylor, Swedish bassist Anders Jormin (ECM regulars, all) and Los Angeles-born drummer Tom Rainey for lively pieces that keep slipping off in unpredictable directions.

"Arcade," the 22-minute opener, is anchored to a theme that builds into great intensity. "Father Demo Square" feels like a leisurely stroll, one that's interrupted by quick starts and stops, unexpected detours and arresting rhythmic twists. And the free-spirited "Ink Pin" is jotted with naked spots for bass and piano, dead air and sudden, manic hard-swinging sequences.

For the closing "What Exit," a bouncy fiddle line morphs into faux mellow jazz, shifting into angry piano-fronted blues swells before the quartet settles into hard-grooving swing, just in time for another stylistic switch-up. Here's hoping for a second entrance by this quartet. -- Philip Booth