Ben Allison, "Think Free"
A New York underground jazz scene mainstay, bassist Ben Allison has broken away from traditional jazz into crossover hybrids and developed a distinctive voice. Allison's latest release, "Think Free," is a seamless follow-up to last year's "Little Things Run the World" and delivers sensual-to-mystical lyricism with subtle grooves. His easy-flowing quintet includes the trumpeter Shane Endsley and violinist Jenny Scheinman, who is a remarkably imaginative leader in her own right. But it's the contributions of guitarist Steve Cardenas that help shape and color "Think Free." Case in point: his slow solo through the poignant "Broke." Larger-than-life monsters lurk in Allison's music, with the word "Godzilla" appearing in two song titles. But the sweet-sounding closer, "Green Al"-perhaps Allison's strongest and most alluring composition to date-disperses all fear. -Dan Ouellette