Date: Thu, 3 July 2003 02:14
Subject: [chi-improv] various opinions

Just came in from the E.B. jazz show, and my immediate concern is that our crowd has settled into the dog day doldrums barely the first week of July. Many of you know me, see me at shows, know my preferences, etc. - I won't pretend to be impartial or unopinionated; if I say something that rankles, feel free to express your disagreement, my feelings won't be hurt - - - that said, let the rambling (& punctuation abuse) begin:

I saw (& heard) in the last week: the Fall, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Mars Williams with Fred Lonberg-Holm & Jim Baker; the Vandermark 5; also the first set of Jason Ajemian's thing. It occurs to me just how important a factor enthusiasm is, not only on the part of the musicians. I love the dynamics and the tension, the ebb and flow, the suspense, not necessarily resolving with a major-chord unison chorus; but hopefully some movement, or at least some wonder. This is my prejudice, but I prefer it when the program is loud enough to record, ie: louder than the background ventilation, something to drown out the voices in my head.

(...kill bush...kill bush...kill bush...) hey seriously, we are in the midst of a true spiritual crises, and true art is a way to counter the insidious fear which they would use to rule the world. It is more important than ever for the audience and the artist to close ranks, refuse to be intimidated, say what needs to be said. We have to avoid the vortex of reactive negativity, and focus on the higher levels and issues. The major religions face off in the middle-east, with our own fundamentalist hick-idiot in the lead, and we are called upon to hear the true voice of the Creator, or let our light be extinguished.

Mars, Fred and Jim are three local stars of "my" generation, and the fluent expression and communion was readily apparent to the few in attendance at 3030 W. Cortland last Thursday. All three have more colors on their palettes than exist in the solar spectrum, but Fred was especially expressive on cello, this particular occasion without the box o' toys. Really, the interplay was beyond the vocabulary of mere players and instruments - a sort of celestial speaking in tongues. I am not exaggerating; if anything, I am not saying enough.

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum are Oakland misfit superstars, one of a few bands that actually has a group personality, or concept, theme (btw. US Maple coming up) whatever. Man what an entropy-defying presentation! Some people I have spoken to can't seem to get beyond the theatrical aspect, costumes, makeup, schtick; but I'm just seeing it as a platform for their art-rock virtuosity; starting at Art Bears and then just totally stomping your ass. Carla has redefined electric violin, there is nobody in her class, anywhere. On Sunday the Fall were the polar opposite. The two chord songs were prolonged until the words ended; they played it straight, not even the occasional eye-rolling when Mr. Smith whimsically unplugs the amp. Like a stockcar race, everyone was waiting for a wreck, but the fiasco factor was absent. I remember several shows by the Gun Club that just plain sucked, but then Jeffery Lee would have a transcendent night, tapping a vein which ran into some other dimension. This show was not like that. Next, the folks who heard the Vandermark 5 last Tuesday got to hear the new material which will form the next album, of course it will have evolved by the time they get back from their tour and hit the studio. A nice balance of prowess and confidence.

Speaking of albums, last week's purchases include Mink Lungs, Sightings and the clear winner of the summer so far - the amazing Carla Kihlstedt's 2 Foot Yard on Tzadik - yow! Carla will you marry me? Lastly, Nautical Almanac's triumphant homecoming will include a free show, also playing at Pink Section, very cool -

People will think I'm an imposter if I don't complain about something, really I'm too tired - I'm getting requests from people in other cities who want to come in for the JazzFest but don't know the schedule - if I were US Cellular I'd ask for my money back - how long has the City of Chicago had to book 3 nights of mainstream jazz, with the customary token local crumb?

Parking For The People! (down with hick-idiots)

all bst ~ m


Date: Wed, 23 July 2003 01:28
Subject: [chi-improv] overnight review

I saw lots of familiar faces at the Vandermark - Lonberg-Holm - Daisy - Rosaly show tonight, who played two sets of improvised music instead of the scheduled Vandermark 5 Tuesday at the Empty Bottle -

Hopefully this line-up will occur again in the future - a lot of subtlety and depth, especially with two drummers who have such extreme dynamic capabilities. There are a large number of avenues to explore with this combination of players. Ken is totally hooked into the power-tone of the baritone, the development is amazing. Fred L-H has really knocked me out the last couple of times I have heard him, his cello playing is unconsciously expressive yet ultimately connected - the sonic river flows out of him easier than the torrent of words from a babbling idiot.

Speaking of, in my left ear I have this sublime communion of talented local stars, all of whom deserve MacArthur grants, while in my right ear I am treated to the epic saga which describes " ... so I've got Christy messaging me, and I'm like, well, as if I need any more of that ... " on and on, punctuated by the kicking over of drinks; and then the burst of applause when the drummers pause briefly between ideas, thus effectively ending the piece, even though the musicians weren't done yet. I'd say about 98 percent of the audience are in some sort of near spiritual state, eyes closed, swaying slightly as the blend of notes ebb and swell simultaneously through all possible colors of sound, following the artists' thought, if thought is the word; and then there are the 2 percent, who happen to be the two people sitting behind me to the right, who as patrons of the arts should be comfortable expressing their every thought as well, if thought is indeed the word, because after all, they paid their $3 just like the people who are listening raptly....

I subscribe to another list where one person's signature includes a quote by Frank Zappa, which seems very appropriate, especially in the younger Bush era:

"It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you."

Looking for ways....

Completely unrelated, on the way home I saw the biggest rat I have ever seen, across the street from Smoke Daddy - it was as big as Radley Boo, I kid you not.

Lots of fantastic music this week, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Roy Haynes, Sound In Action, Nautical Almanac, Mars Williams, Outhud, Ernest Dawkins; no way I'll get to see it all - it'd be great to hear from some others on the list - also I need help staying on top of upcoming events - especially if you're up on new classical music, or modern composition, or some of the out-there stuff, even dub....

Also the Hungry Brain Sunday Transmission Series needs our support -

all bst ~ m


Date: Sat, 26 July 2003 18:53
Subject: [chi-improv] week in review pt.2 or blog = get a life

Results wrt: F.Z. quote -

> "It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with
> stupidity, and make it work for you." Frank Zappa
> Looking for ways....

#1 reader response: RAP MUSIC

Wow! music every night this week - most of it great - much of it astonishingly so - it's like watching a good magician, or this skateboard video I have; you watch them perform this trick, rewind it, play it back slow-mo, watch it again - still can't see how the hell it's done! We lost a couple venues, went and checked out some new (for me) spaces, Cal's Liquors (think bike-messenger), Triple-D on Irving Park Road (think IDM), and the fabulous space in Bridgeport for new-no-wave the Texas Ballroom (think occasional). Sorry about all the lame labels, I really hate generalizations....

And this music, which has some quality of creation, call it art, call it soul, whatever... they all start out with different parts and pieces and go about assembling their own Frankenstein monster. You stitch it up, start the Van der Graaff generator, and wait for the beast to come to life. The only common denominator is that they all leave room for the 'spark'. In one corner, the champion wearing dark trunks and playing that jazz music thing, while the challenger ignores the ring entirely and screams her head off while thrashing about in a homemade squid costume fabricated from anti-static foam. Then you have Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, meticulous and proficient, but every bit as mystifying (who else could cover Cheer Accident?) - the brand new live CD documents how powerful and amazing their shows are - connecting all the dots in a new way each time - I'm so glad art-rock's image has been rehabilitated. But charismatic Nautical Almanac are polar opposites and succeed to glory in their own way - combining the genius of Carly Ptak with the showmanship (?) of Twig, avoiding all dots and precedents like the plague - the tour CDR available from Heresee is more than just novel sounds: you can play it like a CD or on your phono turntable.

Speaking of limited edition releases, Future Reference Recordings has released a CDR by Ken Vandermark and Brian Dibblee performing Brian's compositions, with Ken sticking to bass clarinet - a very excellent duo, and I'm not saying that just cuz I recorded it....

The upcoming events still being booked which I referred to in chi.now&then#22 has got me so excited that I don't know what to do - so I have designed a special Savage Sound Syndicate promotional item which I will be peddling at said upcoming exciting events - I don't want to spoil any secrets, but I will say that if you put wheels on said special promotional item you could probably skate on it - this would also be an extreme limited edition -

& the week is not even over....

all bst ~ m


Date: Sun, 3 August 2003 4:35
Subject: [chi-improv] overnight review

The night air is so invigorating -

Josh Berman's absence from the Green Mill All Stars has been explained - he is the sole remnant of the HiM horn section, and they just completed their nine city tour on Saturday night at the Empty Bottle. I had forgotten how truly great HiM is - the last time I saw them was 2 or 3 years ago. Trimmed down to a 5 piece core with keyboards, guitar, cornet, bass, marimba, and 2 drum kits, plus laptop, looping and effects - there are a lot of bases covered. No phrase has been so thoroughly abused in the entire history of Chicago music reviewing as 'poly-rhythmic', but that is one small facet of a highly polished gem which includes trance, funk, dance, dub and even post-Miles fusion. A lot of bands are just now trying to pick up where Miles left off, but with HiM there is no thirty year gap. It is wrong for me to even evoke that reference, but with a treated horn and live mixing it is unavoidable. The other unfair comparison would be Tortoise - well you got yer multi-influenced instrumental linear groove thing, and that's all some folk need to confuse the two, but if Tortoise is dry then HiM is dripping wet. For all their intellectual depth, there is an inescapable bubbling infectiousness like the great African big bands. The fuel is sheer enthusiastic genius-osity, and it felt like my IQ climbed 5 points while they played. Doug Scharin leads the soul-charge from behind his drum-kit and mixer, and his irresistibly energetic multi-tasking unrolls wave upon wave of hyper-dimensional surf, shifting gears and splashing tempos, which were woven into a fabric of every color for the making of triple-extra-large festival t-shirts. Did I just unconsciously say 'festival'? Well, anyway, this paragraph has gone on long enough, but I should say that HiM has a great new release, do yourself a big favor; and Manishevitz put on a pretty good show as well, plus they had Fred Lonberg-Holm. Animal Collective mańana.

all bst ~ m


Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2003 01:56
Subject: [chi-improv] overnight review 8/3

Too much storm debris for a late-night skate, and it doesn't seem efficient to drive to another neighborhood just for that, plus there's that whole 5:30 in the morning get-up-and-go-to-work thing....

Does this mean you will get a slightly longer paragraph containing even more adjectives? Don't count on it, driving home on the Kennedy I am forced to reflect on the similarities between my ranting and the drunks on the road: pointless lane changes, speed up, slow down, back and forth, do they even know where they're going?

Most groups I would like to see performing live before I make a judgement on their music. It's not how faithfully the record is recreated, or even the entertainment factor; prancing dorks do not necessarily trump a laptop artist playing solitaire while the prerecorded soundtrack plays - and I am definitely not saying that I doubted the sincerity of Animal Collective. I was just looking for some kind of context for them, another hard to categorize duo from the east. Sort of ecstatic-folk-personal-noise-portable-druggy-psych-tunes with a high degree of intentional arrangements, unison singing, things that sound more scattered than they really are. They are working it pretty good, starting from a Flying Saucer Attack approach. I guess what I'm looking for is a psychic investment by the artist, not just sweaty t-shirts. They show it by how they listen, not by how they play. Zbigniew Karkowski had that intensity, for example. I saw Goldfrapp at Schuba's a while back, the record was ok, but found out that almost all the inputs to the mixing board were from an ADAT (pre-recorded). Mannequins. Well, you'll have another chance to hear Animal Collective in less than 3 weeks - they will be opening for Múm at the Logan Square Auditorium. They are young, but seem to have a lot of confidence, so maybe they will be as good in a large room as they were Sunday at the Empty Bottle. Just about time for a bi-polar change of subject, if you have a turntable then you must get the Peter Brötzmann/Walter Perkins 'The Ink Is Gone' LP on Eremite, I don't care how much Brötzmann you already own, you need this. Thank you and good-night.

all bst ~ m


Date: Sat, 27 September 2003 16:23
Subject: [chi-improv] ornette loft party

Many of you are probably dying to find out what went down last night - as I was -

Altho I was at the Empty Bottle/Wire show myself, I'll pass along what I heard -

I heard the Symphony Center show was great -

I heard that the afterhours set at Kahlil El'Zabar's space featured Ornette as the quest of honor, who was presented with an award, however he did not play. A $20 donation was requested. I heard the music was good, with Kahlil conducting; which would be convenient if you're a control freak and it happens to be your space.

OK now for what I do know about first hand - John Butcher with Kaffe Matthews and Andy Moor (of Ex) played a great opening set for the third night at the Empty Bottle. They had not played before as a trio, and their separate styles would not be natural chemistry - kind of prickly - and the beauty was in the unexpected combinings. John's solo set at Fred's place this afternoon was also fine and beautiful, in a more 'traditional' way -

Overall the Adventures in Modern Music Festival is a wild success with two nights remaining, bands covering as much of a variety as the fringe could allow in a few short nights. The only relative disappointments have been those acts who didn't fully take advantage of this great opportunity to be truly adventurous.

Don't forget about all the other fabulous stuff on the periphery - the Under The Wire events are totally inspired and complimentary -

more later - maybe -

all bst ~ m


Date: Thu, 27 November 2003 12:36
Subject: [chi-improv] overnight

The long-awaited and much anticipated Full Blown Trio show last night at the Viaduct Theater in Chicago deserves a few well chosen words - indeed there was a plethora of heavyhitter music writers in attendance, so maybe in time those words may appear; until then I may as well continue to spew my sporadic half-formed impressions....

(fire up the la Pavoni Europicolla and start typing, rinse, repeat... )

This on-again, off-again booking combined with the untested venue had many of us in suspense as to the presentation, happily the spirit of improvisation surmounted the minor rough spots. Kudos to Mike Reed (Hungry Brain) and Pete Toalson (Empty Bottle) for overcoming the primary obstacle of finding a place. The Viaduct was a great room for this show, with about 75 seats completely filled during the first set, with additional chairs brought out during intermission. The stage was small, but the wood surfaces reflected the natural sound nicely, which is very important for a jazz trio. The sound system was minimal, but filled in the piano when the drums started building. A nicely balanced, mostly acoustic blend. The piano was marginal, but they worked on it while the crowd patiently lined up. A nice little friendly bar, off the main room, so it was another plus that the dispensing of cocktails didn't intrude. The theater management was on the ball as far as lighting and shutting off the blowers during the performance. Also no second hand smoke - what a relief!

The music started right at 10 PM. There were two short sets, about 36 minutes each, no encore. The first set started with an extended bass solo by the colorful William Parker, the second began similarly with Andrew Cyrille playing the walls, floor and kit from all angles. His effortless merger of imagination and technique brought forth memories of his solo set at the Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music back in 1998. Those four words could sum up the evening's music: colorful, seemingly effortless, imaginative, technically impeccable. Much has been said about Dave Burrell shifting between different styles, but they are so absorbed and integrated that there is really no shift, it is all a part of the whole. There were no quotation marks around anything, nothing recycled, even "I'm In the Mood for Love" was free of any trace of irony, played with freshness. Three masters at play, never noticing a separation between in/out, composition or improvisation, texture and riff. Dave Burrell came to our town last night, and made us feel at home.

all bst ~ m


Date: Sat, 20 December 2003 02:34
Subject: [chi-improv] overnight brötz

What a dazzling array of textures and emotions! I think I have seen Peter B. almost every time he has played here, and I am astonished every time, pure open heart yet amazing sophistication. Hamid shares a special telepathic link and unlimited tools = two long sets rich in expression. I think everyone in the room was as affected as I was.

I heard that only half the people who reserved seats actually showed up -

I wouldn't look for this venue to stick their neck out again like that -

all bst ~ m


Date: Sun, 4 January 2004 02:29
Subject: [chi-improv] top ten

Top Ten live shows from December 2003 (no order):

- Sabir Mateen Quintet w/ Raphe Malik at Mermaid Lounge, New Orleans

- Peter Brötzmann & Hamid Drake at 3030 Cortland

- Peter Brötzmann, Kent Kessler, Hamid Drake w/ Ken Vandermark at Onopa Brew Co, Milwaukee

- Triage at Empty Bottle (3rd week my favorite)

- Free Music Ensemble at Empty Bottle

- TriDim/FME combinations at Empty Bottle

- Son del Pantano - El Matador, New Orleans

- Taking Pictures/Lungfish at Empty Bottle

- Tim Daisy Group/Josh Abrams Group at 3030 Cortland

- Jonathan Freilich Quartet at Dragon's Den, New Orleans

* downer of the month - Kidd Jordan

all bst ~ m


Date: Sat, 10 January 2004 17:25
Subject: [chi-improv] jeb bishop trio - delayed overnight review

I gotta tell ya - trombone is not my favorite instrument - it seems that there are very few players whose skill enables them to transcend it's limitations. So that makes this praise even more noteworthy. The Jeb Bishop Trio with Kent Kessler on bass and Tim Mulvenna on drums has no shortcomings, there are no deficiencies.

I am glad I am not a music reviewer for a living, my vocabulary runs dry seeking superlatives for this trio. They don't play that many shows, yet they are totally familiar with each other by virtue of previous connections, and their individual skill levels are impeccable. The one word which best describes their chemistry is 'balanced'. The three voices weave equally and inventively without ever falling back into supportive roles. The pulse is effortlessly implied to the degree that there is no distinction when bass and drums shift from rhythm section to singing their own melodies. Jeb allows the flower of each composition to open naturally, he does not dominate or push the flow. The overall tone and direction is more melodic and theme oriented, this is not difficult or avant-garde music, yet varied enough to hold your attention throughout both sets. The new material sounds as assured as the pieces from their CD on Okkadisk.

There are two more chance to see them this month at the Empty Bottle on Tuesday nights; the third Tuesday Jeb has a different trio with Hamid Drake and Josh Abrams. Next Tuesday, by the way, is St. Knut's Day, which under the Gregorian calendar was New Year's Eve, so if you are like me and spent that evening hiding under a rock, well finally here is your chance to celebrate - and hey, it's not to late to quit smoking (hint, hint).

all bst ~ m


Date: Wed, 18 February 2004 01:18
Subject: [chi-improv] overnight v5

The new material for the next Vandermark 5 live bonus disk as performed last night was quite simply stunningly beautiful - if you want a taste, come to the Green Mill this Friday or Saturday (3 sets), or the Empty Bottle next Tuesday. Recording all, so please no hooting while they are playing!

...interestingly enough with respect to the recent radio thread, I heard this from a couple of sources:
"I was scanning the radio dial and came upon the local music show hosted by Jim DeRogatis & Greg Kot. Lo and behold, Kot chose to play a V5 track, Money Down. When the track finishes, DeRogatis says, "You know, I respect Ken but I don't want to listen to that."

These are the two experts who gave themselves hernias praising Liz Phair, a singer with a range of about three notes, and artistic integrity on a somewhat smaller scale....

all bst ~ m


Date: Mon, 8 March 2004 - 01:47 AM
Subject: [chi-improv] overnight review

What a great city for creative music! I just hope the city doesn't kill nightclub business -

Specifically, the large number of very talented artists who cross-pollinate in multiple projects and formats - how many bands is Jim Baker involved with? or Mike Reed? I could keep going on and on, but the point is that they are out there playing in diverse combinations that are constantly challenging their abilities, and making coherent music.

Earlier this evening I heard the most amazing thing at the Hungry Brain, the Butcher Shop Quartet playing Stravinsky's Rites of Spring with two electric guitars, bass and drum kit - absolutely and sincerely faithful. They have a couple of new members, Nathaniel Braddock and Dan Sylvester, joining Dan Sullivan and his brother Rob. Very intense. The piece has been recorded at Electric Studio, and will be released on Galapagos 4 in the very near future. They are off to NYC to perform in conjunction with a dance troupe, watch for their return -

You probably recognize all their names from several different contexts, maybe one you haven't caught is Nad Navillus, avenue for songwriter/guitarist Dan Sullivan's personal vision.Nathaniel Braddock of course from Ancient Greeks, also I have seen him playing in a gamelon orchestra.

Desiring Machines followed with a strong set of improvisations with Paul Hartsaw on tenor and soprano, Jim Baker on ARP and the house piano, Anton Hatwich on bass and Mike Reed on drums and assorted percussion, including an ad hoc assemblage of different sized water glasses. They showed the confidence and ability to construct some powerful grooves without ever choosing an obvious path.

Looking around the room, I saw musicians as diverse as Damon Short, Richard Syska, rock group ROPE, and several others, all absorbing the sounds and feeding back energy. That is why it works: the giving and the giving back -

all bst ~ m


Date: Sun, 25 April 2004
Subject: [chi-improv] overnight festival synopsis

Just got in, it's 2:45 AM and I'm still buzzing - Hardcore Chamber Music carved a high-energy set that was more cutting edge than any 'chamber' connotation that occurs to me; even having heard these musicians in different contexts before, I was totally unprepared. Closing the fourth night of the 8th Annual Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music, Hans Koch, Martin Schütz, Fredy Studer played with intensity and fever for over an hour, mixing electronics with their instruments for a high-volume mash which included both clamor and trance, at times atmospheric, in other places almost drum and bass, with squalling reed.... Definitely worth a trip to Milwaukee, take my word for it.

It's too bad that a festival needs big names to get an audience, because anyone who took a chance on some unfamiliar acts was richly rewarded. Klaas Hekman was a high point, his duo with Ken Vandermark, and his solo set. Anthony Coleman with Michael Attias combined a lower intensity approach to achieve a hypnotic anti-groove. Erik Friedlander displayed his range and sensitivity for maximum effect. Throughout, the Chicago talent pool showed well, in all contrasts. Frank Rosaly deserves special mention for dynamic expression, subbing for both Tim Daisy and Robert Barry. Fred Lonberg-Holm got good exposure, lots of strings this year. All sets were engaged and interesting, leaving you wanting more. Well, that's what the product table is for....

all bst ~ m


Date: Thu, 29 April 2004
Subject: [chi-improv] overnight deerhoof

I'm so glad that we got beyond post-rock, finally -

The sold-out DeerHoof show at the Empty Bottle, for example: a portable, compact genre-shunning buzzsaw; minimal when it serves its purpose, dissonant or punk or folk or cute songcraft when something else is called for; leaving room for spontaneity. Above all, it doesn't take itself too seriously. A kick drum, a snare, a cymbal - no jazzface.... same (but different) with 54-71, from Japan.

When ESG or James Chance did it in the 80's you always felt like it was accidental genius - the posing made it difficult to achieve the right balance two shows in a row. I think you have to look at the motives, this expressiveness seems so immediate and personal and unpretentious, it gives one hope for the next wave -

all bst ~ m


Date: Sun, 29 May 2004
Subject: overnight acid mothers & more

Entering the night air, ears ringing, cigarette smoke permeating every fiber - there comes a clarity, a peaceful variety of exhilaration. Acid Mothers Temple epitomize Japanese space-rock, but they do it so well that it is not formulaic. They are playing together, as in playful, as in messing around, having fun. The energy builds as the chord changes cycle, with interludes of wackiness. An hour and forty minutes, with some dense and brilliant climaxes. And some skewed acapella folk blues. And some other stuff, hard to guess what exactly....

Wolf Eyes now resemble professional musicians - they have instruments, and that lovable trainwreck chaos has chunked into a recognizable sound. I remember their earlier shows with nostalgic fondness, when "What the fuck was that?" was a typical response.

The Abbey has such a weird vibe, as strange as the architectural design of the second floor. The concept of manners is entirely absent, and they are not shy about it. It is as though half the audience is unaware that there is a band playing. If I called them hillbillies, I would probably be insulting the friendly folk of the Appalacians - I guess they're both illiterate, so I probably don't need to worry -

Another outstanding show this last week was Oregon at Martyr's on Wednesday night. I was similarly fearful about the Martyr's show, the few other times I have been there I found it packed with sheep-like nicotine fiends chattering into cell phones. What an obnoxious sound, someone's 'personalized' ring drowning out the subtle oboe and weaving guitar interplay. I support a constitutional amendment to authorize Mensa snipers to start picking off these morons. I am continually astonished that these mouth-breathing idiots don't still have tails. At least there weren't very many smokers. Oregon did what they have been doing for thirty years, varying their material across the entire span into two sets; it was sensitive yet passionate yet precise, and I enjoyed it. Opener Fred Simon was great, should have played longer.

Also Triage at the Empty Bottle last Tuesday, replacing the Thread Quintet as originally scheduled. Triage has evolved into a new phase, and my enthusiasm keeps increasing. Dave Rempis' playing ability seems to have no limits, intense flurries heaping into a prolonged whirlpool then shifting effortlessly to a different dynamic frame. The new direction is more open, extended pieces with a lot of internal spatial movement.

Not sure what to say about Jean-Francois Laporte, the invented instrument set was pretty cool. Then the dude plays a CD of a Zamboni, and you know what? it was entirely excellent.

all bst ~ m


Date: Sat, 5 June 2004
Subject: in memory of

My favorite memory of Steve Lacy is when he and his wife Irene Aebi performed at Fassbender Gallery here in Chicago. I think it was a Sunday afternoon - anyway I had come down with all my equipment, and then Steve decided he didn't want the show recorded. Hardly anyone showed up, there were only about a dozen people in the audience. The starting time was delayed as long as possible, hoping for stragglers. Steve reminisced about a matinee show he had attended years ago, with Charlie Parker playing, and hardly anyone there.

Anyway, while all waited, Steve and Irene sat on bench overlooking Superior Street, like a couple of tourists, and I imagined a random passer-by looking up and saying - Wow that's Steve Lacy.

Innovative window display, yes; effective in bringing people in, no.

The performance itself made you want to hold your breath - delicate, ethereal and hypnotizing. They did duets and material inspired by Steve's love of Beat poetry, making each piece intimately personal, and when one of the keys of his saxophone malfunctioned it still felt like part of the flow.

Even more than wishing I had a recording of that show, I wish I had taken a photo from behind of Steve and Irene leaning against each other, looking out the window, quietly talking.

all bst ~ m


Date: Sun, 25 July 2004 - 3:30 AM
Subject: overnight fred and hamid

Well, I guess it's been a while since I've been down to the Velvet Lounge. I didn't think it had been that long, but everything is changed. There are so many new condos I almost didn't recognize the neighborhood - I had to go almost to 18th St. to find a parking spot on the street. It should be required of new construction to provide parking for every new unit. Next thing you know, it will be permit parking only, in effect turning a public street into private parking spaces for yuppies. Valet parking should be limited to one space at the corner for drop-off and pick-up, but where is the profit in that? for the mayor I mean....

The next difference you notice is all the flowers - I've never seen so many fucking flowers in my life! Who is paying for all these flowers? Oh that's right, I forgot, I am....

If you're a property owner, or tenant, or homeless person, and the city comes in and starts planting flowers, you gotta think, uh-oh, the end is near, time to start packing -

Thus the subliminal economic undercurrent works it's subtle changes - at the Velvet they had to turn people away well before the club got full - it must be the old fire-marshal ploy, which the city uses when the value of the real-estate goes up. If that doesn't work, then they start planting underage people in the audience; or inventing complaints from unidentified neighbors. Yessir, the handwriting is on the wall....

Speaking of (graffiti on the wall) did you notice that the remodelling has started at the Fireside Bowl? Will it still be a music venue when the Flying Luttenbachers arrive? doubt it....

But wait, this was supposed to be a music review - not another rant on Little Prince Richie; I guess I can get back to that later, unlimited fuel there -

So if you didn't get to the Velvet Lounge early on Saturday night, you really missed it - wotta show! It was billed as Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake, record release event for the new Thrill Jockey CD, but the first thing I noticed was Mr. Harrison Bankhead hauling his bass through the crowd. The first set was a 55 minute trio flow, covering all points on the compass, except for cliche, that one was absent. Fred was in fine form, as usual taking a little while to build up a head of steam, and then the notes poured out in a torrent of infinite variation. Hamid and Harrison shift gears, feint and thunder, volley and clatter, then subside. Lather, rinse and repeat.

Darius Savage was as acting the stage manager, dashing back and forth to adjust a mic stand every time Fred moved around on stage - all for naught, recording equipment problems, lost to the wind... well except for all those mini-disks out there. Yet Darius was blissed out or something and missed it entirely when Hamid's floor tom collapsed during his solo, 6 feet away from Darius. Eventually Harrison put down his bass and walked around the stage to tighten up one of the clamps. Nothing impeded the inspiration, however, and the first set was full and satisfying. Then the Velvet Lounge Master of Ceremony (?), who had apparently just arrived, welcomed us, and made the closing announcements.

The MC introduced the second set with a rather awkward litany of recently deceased jazz players, encouraging the audience to call out the names of dead guys. Hey, they are still with us, their music will live forever. Another hour long improvisation, just like the first set, except totally different. Harrison did the thing with the little quotes, which I didn't get, but everyone else did, so that was OK. I was just glad it wasn't "Jesus Loves Me Yes I Know" this time. More surprizes, who is that taking his alto sax out of the case, tapping the claves against Hamid's beat? Why, none other than Ernest Dawkins, and Douglas Ewart behind him with his soprano, and Greg Ward in the shadows of greatness by the cooler there. It was sublime, in turn and together, wordless voices of talent and integrity. A lot more back and forth moving the microphones, which didn't really do much for us in the audience since they weren't routed to the PA, but we all hope that the ADAT was functioning by then.

I would say that was about an hour and 5 long, and everyone thought that it was the end, but Fred said let's do another, and the second set continued another 40 minutes from there. You get the feeling that he is drawing from a deep deep really deep well. I wonder if he felt what I was feeling when I left: refreshed and wrung out all together.

btw, the new CD is excellent, really great, thanks Bettina for putting it out, you are my hero -

all bst ~ m


Date: Fri, 20 August, 2004 - 4:00 AM
Subject: overnight V5 at Schuba's

Those who missed the Vandermark 5 at Schuba's as part of the Interchange Festival will have two more opportunities next week: they will be performing at festivals in Mulhouse, France (Aug. 27) and Groningen, Holland (Aug. 28) before going on an extended hiatus. There were audible gasps when Ken announced from the stage that it was their last concert in North America for more than a year, but anybody who reads Chicago Rash Audio Potential was forewarned, of course.

The Interchange Festival was organized by Mike Reed, Dave Rempis and others with the help of many volunteers as a benefit for Citizen Action / Illinois, a non-profit, non-partisan group to increase voter registration. Almost 20 bands performed in the last week at a variety of venues, all of whom donated their time and efforts to mobilize citizen action at the polls on November 2, and there was an extra sense of energy imbued in the participation of taking back our political process from the corrupt abusers of power currently in office. Bush and Daley, your days are numbered....

The Vandermark 5 played like it was a celebration, not a trace of nostalgia, opening Thursday's festival concert on Schuba's small stage with a short acoustic but muscular set lasting only 45 minutes. They performed mostly new material, starting out with Vehicle, a piece from the next Atavistic studio release with a driving swing, nearly traditional feel, almost a swagger, with Ken on baritone and Dave on tenor weaving melodies before the quicker paced theme kicked it up a notch. Following that was a brief rendition of Sonny Rollins' Freedom Suite, showcasing the band's unity and tightness as well as Ken's clarinet. Then came That Was Now, which started out hyper and twitchy, then shifting several times as different instruments received cues from alternating players. After that was Suitcase, with Ken playing bass clarinet and Kent Kessler walking bass, featuring Jeb Bishop; one of their more ambitious compositions, played for the first time before a Chicago audience. Pieces of the Past started out with another trombone solo, this time not muted, before a tempo shift and a chance for Dave Rempis to show his chops. Tim Daisy's solo was colorful and energetic, developing into a duet with the leader finally taking his turn on tenor, building as Kent broke in with double-time bass leading up to the final crescendo. Sob and uproar.

I think that the Vandermark 5 is something that we who are lucky enough to live here have inevitably taken for granted - all those Tuesdays at the Empty Bottle, which started out as lonely workshops and became huge noisy crowded parties. On the plus side, Ken sounds very positive about having the opportunity to explore some new dynamics in untried combinations - this might be a good time to mention Nate McBride's arrival from Boston. Also work is progressing on the limited-edition Vandermark 5 vs. Atomic poster-box/CD from their recent joint tour, recorded at the Green Mill. Stay tuned....

all bst ~ m


Date: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004 - 9:30 PM
Subject: overnight John Cale and others

a few observations as a sort of overnight/week-in-review:

It was nice to see the good turnout at the 4th Annual Phrenology Festival at the Hungry Brain, good folk and a good time, remarkable that so much can be accomplished on a shoestring, on what are generally considered off-nights (Sun-Mon-Tues). Also good to see the proceedings being professionally documented by Strobe Recording Studio, maybe we'll get to hear some of it again.

Maybe that partially accounts for the light attendance at the Empty Bottle when Sture Ericson improvised on baritone sax and clarinet along with Fred Lonberg-Holm and Michael Zerang, who Bill Meyer calls the Sly & Robbie of Chicago improv. The music was certainly magical and outstanding, built on their expert vocabularies yet entirely unprecedented - pulling new sounds out of the air and packaging them as experimental compounds. I was excited enough to go back for a second helping on Friday at the Candlestick Maker, where Jim Baker added whatever-it-is-that-he-does on Arp. I would defy any blindfolded listener to identify the sound sources.

Still I am deeply concerned about the small audiences lately, don't become defeated by the seeming psychic cesspool of energy as the public opinion spinners churn their webs of deceit - let art lift you up above the stench of the self-righteous swine-herds, and inspire you to seek the burning kernel. There are still a few years left on the Aztec calendar....

Saturday night I went to 6Odum, where the sound sources were mostly recognizable, but impeccably arranged into five pieces of well-thought-out laptop music by John Bischoff - about an hours' worth. The little bell spatial thing was cute but effective, and featured on the first and last pieces.

Sunday I stopped by the Hungry Brain briefly, have I mentioned what a nice comfortable place it is to relax and hear some rising talent? not to mention the artwork....

Monday I stepped outside my normal circle to the Double Door, and felt rewarded even before I got thru the door because of the sign announcing that it was to be a non-smoking show. I went mostly to see the second band: Bruce Lamont, with Fred Lonberg-Holm (again), and Shannon Morrow on drums. Not so much interested in the headliner, John Cale, even though I can respect his artistic achievements. The opener Amos Lee was a singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar, and did nothing which makes him memorable. I know Bruce from his metal band, Yakuza, in which he plays sax with effects and sings, and you get the feeling that he has more energy and ideas than outlets for expression. I like the concept of fusing dub to metal to free-jazz without any lowest common denominator, even if if the hardcore core is a little confused by it. Bruce and Fred have played as a duo once at 3030 Cortland, and they perform ethereal sound and texture improvisations with an amplified intensity. Fred is simply unafraid, his intrepid sonic pursuit has no limits, employing rubberbands and multiple electric toothbrushes, still more than capable of wringing feedback and looping his cello thru multiple effects pedals. This was their first time with a drummer, with a corresponding exponential increase in depth. Shannon has played with a wide variety of projects - talented, dynamic, beautiful, intelligent, and creative; she gives me a giant boner. These are the kind of minds that played 3-dimensional chess when they were school-kids. What else can I say? They fabricated a short set of challenging atmospheric interplay. A little more fermentation, maybe... After the tentative applause, a woman calls out "Woo! Lou Reed". I probably should have left then.

The John Cale set causes me to reflect on what I am seeking and why playing safe is not enough anymore. Clearly most people who were there were quite happy to sing along to the familiar songs. It is reassuring to them, it validates their identities, it fills some empty interior vessel, over and over. It is the polish that disturbs me, the backing tracks, the programmed parts, the talented drummer reduced to just playing a few accents over a few patterns. It was more like Roxy Music's Avalon than anything derived from Velvet origins. Without having heard his last record, every note could have been predicted. When I saw the Melvins earlier this year at the D.D. they played the hits, but left room for the happy accident, car-wreck and the lightning bolt, and weren't afraid to leave the path to wander a little in the jungle. As it was, John Cale had to switch back and forth between instruments just to give it some forward momentum. Yet when I am out walking the sidewalks chances are I'm singing in my head the same old Roger Miller or Isley Brothers song that has been in my head for the last twenty years. I guess there are many levels to things.

When I read this back, it all sounds pretty pompous, like I think my opinions mean something. I'm sorry about that, because I'm just trying to throw out a few impressions, either resonate or go clang, or huh? It is so hard to be coherent and impartial, and express some sense of context - I am so full of respect for any writer who can pull it off, I have no pretensions about ever accomplishing that trick.

all bst ~ m


Date:  Tuesday, 30 November 2004 - 1:30 AM
Subject:  overnight Triage and Califone

It is testimony to the irrevocable power of art that we have survived this November of national despair. On the day the outcome was announced, the Frode Gjerstad Trio with Oyvind Storesund, Paal Nilssen-Love and special guest Peter Brötzmann played at the Empty Bottle, following a set of free music by Joe McPhee, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Michael Zerang at the Claudia Cassidy Theater, and the double dose of pure spirit was sufficient to face the chill wind of this quickening dark era - but there were no words to say it.

More recently I have received inspiration from the hands of Triage, playing two sets on Sunday night at the Hungry Brain. They continue their exploration of long-form improvisations, which occasionally merge into a theme of one of their compositions. Dave Rempis's mastery of the alto is seamless and monumental, but that does not prevent him from further expansion on tenor and baritone. With Tim Daisy and Jason Ajemian, they shape a rippling power trio capable of equally intensive subtlety. I was mesmerized by a completely counter-intuitive line of minor key intervals, slowly bending then circling. Btw: great venue for drinking and listening without undo posing.

Which concept tosses to Rodan, at the heart of the self-absorption universe on Milwaukee Avenue. Self-saturation would be a better term for it, let's just say that Liz Phair would have fit right in here, in her pre- desperate hag incarnation. An interesting place, nonetheless, to host Califone in their month-long Monday night residency, accompanying silent films and video projection, and recording stand-alone soundtracks which hopefully will be released on three disks (Perishable Records?). The first video was an early Alice Through The Looking Glass, straight and manipulated video versions. Tim and Jim and the two drummers are so far ahead of the bell-curve of the weird-folk-rock revival, they seemed to combine an infinite extravagance with a minimal finesse, random judicious sounds coalescing into looping rhythm, synchronized with the dramatic climaxes on screen.

After a brief break, they played a longer piece to go along with a John Gilbert silent film from 1924, HE Who Gets Slapped, unaltered but totally engrossing, a pre-existential love tragedy with Lon Chaney cast as the lead clown, HE. There was a lot of thought and development in the arrangements, it was not something thrown together in the mood of the moment (both sets were instrumental).

I should mention that Califone will play their last show for a while this Saturday at the Aragon, opening for Modest Mouse. They will be playing their "rock set".

I would have been totally hypnotized if it had not been for the parade of beautiful people back and forth in front of the screen. Maybe it was not an overwhelming desire on their part to be seen by every person in the room, and just some sort of medical condition which prevents them from sitting still longer than the time it takes to chain smoke two cigarettes and check their messages on their cell phones.

The haunting imagery seemed to parallel our contemporary macro/micro crisis, where lofty dreams became consumed by the insatiable greed of a disintegrating empire. Once upon a time, the United States was the moral leader and democratic hope for a globe in turmoil - never again - and we watched it eat itself and shit itself out. William Kunstler once prophesied, "the American revolution has not yet happened... "

ˇviva la revolucíon!

all bst ~ m


Date:  Thursday, 19 May 2005 - 10:30 PM
Subject:  recent & noteworthy

Too many great shows to remember them all: Caffiene at 3030, Melt Banana & Yakuza at the Abbey, Eric Hofbauer, Unsane, I wish I had words for all -

but what to say about Gang of 4? I really wish I had something good to say, there is no group higher in my historical esteem, the gift they gave me is larger than life - but....

I almost didn't want to see them again, after all their shows which still burn in my memory, I was half afraid that anything they had to say at this point could only diminish their legacy. They were a blinding light on each of the five occasions that I had previously heard them live, but you can only polish a gem so long, and its brilliance can't increase any further. That was the case at the Metro last Wednesday. Every song was worthy, but could only culminate in a feel-good sing-along. I'm sorry, I really am, I would really rather lie about it and say they were white-hot, but they were not. There was no furious fuel.

Every arrangement was just like it was when they left it, even the feedback guitar solo. They performed unadorned versions of all their classics. Hugo seemed at best economical, at worst lethargic. Dave Allen is the only one who played with any spark at all. After the first encore (two songs) I was trying to think of what they had not played yet - they came back with "I Found That Essence Rare, That's What I Live For"... too bad I didn't get what I hoped for.

I was told the following night they plyed David Bowie's Heroes for the final encore.

It makes me think about the new Thrill Jockey DVD in which various interesting musicians talk about what inspired them to pick up an ax and start whacking. Gang of 4 had such an intense anger, and they made it real, they showed me why passion and integrity is more important than proficiency....

The Peter Brötzmann Tentet at Tonic had combustable abundance last night, performing two unamplified improvised sets to enthusiastic crowds with a new line-up that includes Magnus Broo on trumpet and Per-Ake Holmlander on tuba. Paal Nilssen-Love and Michael Zerang played with and off each other, pound for pound. Mats G. flourished a slide soprano saxophone that I have never seen before, and Joe McPhee added a valve trombone to his arsenal this time around. At one point he and Magnus played pocket trumpet duets and/or duals. An extreme dynamic sensitivity throughout, which left the audience gasping for air.

Bad new for those waiting patiently for the 12-CD box set of live Vandermark 5 from Poland - it may already be sold out! You might try Downtown Music Gallery, they may be able to get more....

all bst ~ m


Date:  Saturday, 4 June 2005 - 1:40 AM
Subject:  capsule overnight Gang Gang Dance review

The best shows are the hardest to describe, and Gang Gang Dance played a short set at the Empty Bottle that was the best show I've seen this year. It was more like fertility ritual of sculpted energy, a collage which could not be assembled by force of intelligence alone. To dissect it would make it seem schizophrenic rather than a mystical mutation simultaneously pulsating through several rapturous dream-states, a mythical animal encountered in the subway tunnels. This terrain is best navigated in the dark to absorb the orgasmic rhythms colliding and swelling, finally taking the shape of a mandala. It was a culmination of musical lessons digested, rather than clichés sampled - hilarious, percussive, echoing, hallucinogenic plasma blasting in all dimensions at once. I thought of saying: imagine if you took the Cocteau Twins and told them "now do everything exactly the opposite", but that reference would trivialize this great Brooklyn quartet. Thank you and good night.

all bst ~ m


Date:  Monday, 16 June 2005 - 12:01 AM
Subject:  capsule overnight Percussion Quartet at Chicago Hot Glass

It has been an overwhelming fantastic month for music, and I couldn't begin to describe it all. Rob Mazurek at the Hungry Brain & Empty Bottle, Jim Baker & Mars Williams at the Hotti Biscotti, and two opportunities to hear Peter Brötzmann - his deep chemistry with Joe McPhee; still savoring the set he did with Nasheet Waits in June. He surprises me every time I see him, a tremendous palette of colors.

Earlier this evening I was witness to a performance by the Dave Rempis Percussion Quartet at the Chicago Hot Glass workshop, near Central Park & Division on the west side (I wouldn't take the CTA to get there). This is a workspace/school for glassblowers, and they are hosting jazz every third Monday of the month, as an open house event. There were refreshments, and artists blowing glass and answering questions, and two sets of excellent music by one of Dave's exciting new avenues of exploration. The band set up by the back door, which was open to the night breeze, and the blazing sound matched the molten raw art drawn from the ovens on long slender tubes, blown silently, spun, shaped and swung. Great simultaneous creative energy.

We can only hope that Prince Richie's cronies don't start erecting townhouses that look like rows of tombstones, burying this venue like all the others, desparately missed. With last week's final jazz show at 3030, the long consecutive series of Thursday nights has finally been broken - stretching from the old Hothouse, Lunar Cabaret, Bop Shop, Xoinx (I had forgotten about that one until Dave reminded me)....

This city needs to wake up and realize that culture exists on a smaller scale than Grant Park, and some small degree of nurture is necessary. Nightclubs are treated like drug dealers or gang bangers - every possible obstacle is put in their way, as a matter of policy. It's shameful, considering Chicago's role in shaping music in the 20th century. The decline since the destruction of Maxwell Street has been unwavering - if it ain't part of the business machine, it will be eradicated.

all bst ~ m


Date:  Thursday, 26 January 2006 - 11:01 PM
Subject:  QMRplus at Muse Café capsule overnight review

It is shameful that it has taken me so long to check out this new Chicago venue. Of course 'shameful' is a word that has lost its meaning after the Bush administration response to hurricane Katrina. Let us take a brief moment to compare it to any of the hurricanes which hit the state of Florida: the federal government was down there within a week writing checks. It made no difference if your property was damaged or not - if you were Republican, you got some money.

QMRplus are Quin Kirchner, Matthew Golombisky & Robin Boudreaux; playing drums, acoustic bass and saxes, "plus" Matthew McClimon on vibes. They are transplants from New Orleans, forced out by the storm last August. It has been five months, and they have no homes to return to, because nothing has been done. The government is postponing repairs until the area has festered sufficiently that they can justify a giant land grab, and send in Haliburton to put up resort hotels and casinos.

This is the second time QMR plus has played together since the hurricane, and in the next few weeks you will have a few opportunities here to hear these talented and deserving musicians. They play a fluid and dynamic 'long form' but compact jazz, well worth some deep listening. The pieces are intricate, yet feel simple because the dynamic progression is natural and not forced. The twists and turns are more rewarding than angular, and inside and outside occur without contrived fanfare. They play well together and listen to each other.

QMRplus - 26 January 2006

If you are curious, they will play shows at Silvie's on Monday 1/30, the Empty Bottle on Tuesday 1/31, and a live CDR is available at Reckless, their website at www.qmrplus.com  and also www.myspace.com/qmrplus ....

The Muse Café opened its doors around four months ago, it is modern and clean but not sterile, with wood floors and good sightlines. They have a few tables and an interesting menu of sandwiches, an espresso machine, selection of teas, and BYOB after 7 PM. Joe and Dave, the owners, are both musicians, and live creative music is a priority. They will be hosting regular electro-acoustic improv workshops on the first Thursday of every month. Shows tend to be on the early side, finishing around 10 PM. It is located near the expressway just south of the intersection of Elston & Milwaukee, an 'upwardly mobile' neighborhood, but I had no problem finding parking on the street. Weekends are probably more congested. Nice for hanging out, nice for listening.

all bst ~ m


Date:  Tuesday, 23 May 2006 - 11:32 PM
Subject:  JB?HB capsule overnight review

I have postponed trying to write about Jim Baker with Steve Hunt, Brian Sandstrom and Mars Williams at Hotti Biscotti while waiting for the right words to come - well that ain't gonna happen, much like true democracy in America.... Let me put it another way, you don't explain the sauce at Bar-B-Que Bob's, you experience it. One of my favorite things about the ongoing Tuesday night series at this modest west Fullerton Avenue bar is the expression on the faces of the uninitiated, a "what the hell was that?", cubed, look. Jim called it jazz a few months ago, and I am still pondering that concept. Let's just say it is like a frommage from an unknown country, cultured but strange.

Mars Williams, Steve Hunt, Brian Sandstrom, Jim Baker at Hotti Biscotti - 23 May 2006

George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars at the University of Chicago - 20 May 2006

The Eternals at the Empty Bottle - 22 May 2006

Mandarin Movie at the Empty Bottle - 22 May 2006

This has been a great week of music for me. Last Saturday I heard George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars at a University of Chicago event, and last night heard the Eternals and Mandarin Movie at the Empty Bottle. The answer to the question in my mind in anticipation of P-Funk is "yes there is still joy in the emanations from the mother-ship", and it still has relevance, even to a generation the same age as George's granddaughter, who came out and did a song about halfway through the 2 hour set. The Eternals do their own sort of alien apocalypse reggae, which I have no criticism of, except to say that their only limitation is themselves. I sometimes wished they were less specific, more abstract. Mandarin Movie is Rob Mazurek with Alan Licht, Matt Lux, Jason Ajemian and Frank Rosaly, extremely intense and unconfigured, reminded me of Kubrick somehow. I first met Rob at Butchie's Get Me High Lounge, he has always had that beautiful tone. Between then and now he has shown that he can play anything and everything. Tremendous depth and generousity, and I relaxed into a state of receptivity to where I wasn't even perturbed when 'tamale guy' made two passes through the room during a quiet part. It was magnificent and cataclysmic, and it left my ears and my brain ringing, bereft of meaningful descriptors.

So then we have Jim Baker on ARP and electric piano, Mars Williams on tenor, alto and soprano sax, Brian Sandstrom on upright bass, electric bass and guitar, and effects, and Steve Hunt on drums and percussion. Inspired by Jim's emails 'promoting' this series, I tried to pin the name 'Hoaxers' on this particular combination of familiar players, several of whom have gathered at some point under Hal Russell's old oak tree, perhaps bonked by his acorns. I thought the appellation suggested a certain playfulness, as well as the connotation of the possibility of 'fun'. Well that never caught on, so we have by default 'Baker, Hunt, Sandstrom & Williams' or 'Jim Baker Trio with Mars Williams' or whatever. Whatever is especially applicable, since most weeks one or more of the quartet is absent; sometimes it is just Jim, which is still a very entertaining and educational evening. This is supposed to be an early show, with two sets commencing at 8:30, sometimes followed by an entirely different group at 11 pm. There is no cover charge, but I'm sure your donation would be very much appreciated. Disclaimer: Hotti Biscotti has no biscuits whatsoever.

It is wonderful to get such a large dose of intuitive ecstatic energy music; I was worried that it had gone away (again). I am always overjoyed when all roads lead to Ayler, careening and hurtling through a Jungian voyage to Arcturus, exuberant broiler pan clatter, seagull and banshee duets. These four work together better than the toes on my left foot, and in performance they are not making musical choices or decisions, or experimenting in any normal way. Each consummate in several styles, they unravel the DNA of all past explorations and instantly mutate with a perfect logic in defiance of notes, tempo or scale. It is sonic alchemy, and the really odd thing is they seem to be able to do it at will. The experience goes beyond listening. Almost every Tuesday when all four play, I go home feeling like a volunteer in a magic act, where my underwear gets turned inside out without me knowing.

But in a good way.

all bst ~ m


Date:  Friday, 28 July 2006 - 1:13 AM (Saturday)
Subject:  New Velvet capsule overnight review

It's a great day for the city of Chicago, and for persevering fans of creative music - the Velvet Lounge has re-opened on Cermak Avenue, a few blocks west of the previous location. After the wheels of real-estate progress forced him from his institution on Indiana (the late Steve Lacy called it a 'temple'), Fred Anderson was eager to get the doors opened and the bugs worked out before the official grand opening in a couple of weeks. 'Tuning the room' would be a better way to say it, the old place might have had a few insects (or worse) but the new Velvet is shiny new, except for the vintage bar and back-bar, which are authentic and very classy. Very well done, very thoughtful layout, clean lines but not strip-mall, a nice live room with an azure theme, lacking only some sound baffles or diffusers for the exposed industrial-strength high ceiling. The un-carpeted stage is a comfortable height, the sound re-inforcement modest and efficient. A few scattered paintings nicely break up the oceanic feel, and there is a colorful portrait of Fred with his horn in the smart glass entrance hall (next winter when you don't feel like standing out in the cold, you will say "that was smart").

Corey Wilkes, Junius Paul, Kevin Nabor on opening night - 28 July 2006

the new Velvet Lounge on Cermak - July 2006

There isn't much to recognize from the old place except for the giant octopus chandeliers - the only other reminder is the window posters incorporating that classic wallpaper. The space has large windows on the Cermak side, and it looks like they are still working on that. The intent is to have the shows start a little earlier, for now at least they are being listed at 9 PM. The inaugural honors fell to Corey Wilkes (trumpet), Isaiah Spencer (drums), Kevin Nabors (sax) and Junius Paul (bass), all young but experienced regulars who are capable of injecting originality into jazz form, without attempting anything avant. Hey now this is top drawer, the performers even have a dressing room. Yet another plus: we have moved now closer to Harold's Chicken Shack #71, whose catfish surpassed Fitzee's (shout out to Percy & Curly). No reason to go to the White Castle on the north side of Cermak. Or you could hit Chinatown before the show, it's only a half mile west. Street parking; definite neighborhood flavor (panhandlers). Remember that before you plunk down a big deposit on your future Lexington Park Condominium (site of the old Velvet).

*** this just in, I was told that the 'Velvet Lady' painting has also found a new home in the New Velvet, what a relief ***

Sorry the one-two heat-humidity punch has fused my brain, maybe I'll add more later. Stay tuned for the upcoming schedule to be announced shortly.... Branford Marsalis drop-in? possible future Braxton? Witches & Devils for Halloween? can't think of a good hint for the grand-opening so you'll just have to call Fred, which will give you the opportunity to say congratulations, welcome back, thanks for everything -

all bst ~ m