Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ballister Trauma

Ballister @ The Hideout, Chicago, IL
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dave Rempis: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello, electronics
Paal Nilssen-Love: drums, percussion

From the first attack from Paal Nilssen-Love's stick landing on membrane Ballister lurched forward with a willingness to plunge over any improvisational cliff. With a music that is far from subtle - but full of subtlety - this trio mines a sonic territory built upon three slabs of noise emanating from equal partners. The jagged beauty of their sound pouring down like a firestorm during an active eruption.

Behind the thrill of sonic fortissimo lurks the contours of the independent parts. The surprising moments of quiet introspection that creep into the foreground or the delicious moments when one layer drops out, allowing for a duo to pool around the edges of the aggressive energy. The confidence these performers have in one another as collaborators and partners in angry dialogue offering ample evidence that their responsive listening habits have fused together as a band and over years of playing together within larger formations.

Dave Rempis played with a lot of heat. Often concluding pieces with a searing tone from a surprising register on the baritone. Or tracing soft contours that sounded nearly as processed as Fred Lonberg-Holm's pedal heavy cello setup. While Nilssen-Love displayed how the percussive vocabulary on display in last week's solo set plays out within a trio format. The end result was a satisfying blast of noise therapy.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Otherworldly Dervishes

Clusone Trio: Clusone 3. 1992. Ramboy: 01.

Michael Moore: alto saxophone, clarinet, melodica
Ernst Reijseger: cello
Han Bennink: percussion

A trio that balances handily upon the musicianship and mischief from all three players involved. Improvisation and tunes shaped with so much spontaneity that it the distinction between the two is deliriously blurred. By the time this set gets to "Ao Velho Pedro" I'm swept up in the playful qualities of this music and marvel at the living, organic jazz history woven through this music without the slightest smell of stagnant, museum grade approach. This disc is worth spinning a few times with a focus on what each player is bringing to the sound and how each one practically bounces off the other with a conversant sense of humor. Big ears and big hearts at work in this music.

Michael Musillami Trio + 3: From Seeds. 2009. Playscape Recordings: PSR # 020109.

Michael Musillami: guitar, composer
Joe Fonda: bass
George Schuller: drums
Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone
Matt Moran: vibes
Ralph Alessi: trumpet

Just looking at the musicians on this project is enough to set expectations sky high for a project led by a guitarist new to these ears. And does it ever deliver. Enough to put Michael Musillami on my radar for his thoughtful compositions and wicked guitar chops. The interaction between the guitar and vibraphone is fascinating here. And Marty Ehrlich is amazing as always on the alto saxophone for this session. Even the brief, programmatic linear notes by the composer are a joy. Particularly his description for "Graphite."

"Graphite" is a testament to the fact I still write everything out by hand with pencil, ruler and eraser. It's a ritual. Cats continue to shake their heads and tell me about all the great programs for music writing. I suppose it's too perfect. I need to see my past mistakes: changes from eraser marks, coffee stains, rips and tears.

That conversant humor and personality comes through in the music along with the meticulous, polished material worked out through practice and habit in an effort to tease music from imperfections and polished "mistakes." Though From Seeds is no mistake. It's rewarding listening.

Jack DeJohnette with Bill Frisell: The Elephant Sleeps But Still Remembers. 2006. Golden Beams Productions: GBP-CD-1116.

Jack DeJohnette: drums, percussion, vocals, piano
Bill Frisell: Guitar, Banjo

Two great artists with an established sound and a mutually compatible approach make a deeply enjoyable album. What is interesting here is just how well their respective sounds - which are easily perceived within these textures - fuse together so cleanly. When it doesn't sound like they've been collaborating for decades they at least sound like they would like to. Yet more continuity in Bill Frisell's recording career for playing with all the great drummers of the world.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Love and Roebke

Paal Nilssen-Love and Jason Roebke Combination @ The Hideout, Chicago, IL
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Set 1: Paal Nilssen-Love
Paal Nilssen-Love: drums

Set 2: Jason Roebke Combination
Greg Ward: alto saxophone
Brian Labycz: electronics
Jason Roebke: bass
Frank Rosaly: drums

Paal Nilssen-Love has the rare balance and instinct to know what is possible on a drum kit along with the restraint to know how to organically explore that range of percussive timbre and pulse. He began his solo set with a quick blast on the snare drum before moving to a world of dynamic range along skins and cymbals. At one point striking the drum heads with claves while catching the drum head with a finger to change the tension (and resonant pitch) before the sound trailed off. He also explored a range of possibilities with hand held cymbals and gongs against the resonant bodies of the snare and tom. All with remarkable musical instinct. He could have played both sets and easily had enough material to hold these ears.

The Jason Roebke Combination featured a set of charts for the quartet of saxophone, modular electronics, bass and drums. Pieces that grooved hard with a tight rhythm section while the electronics and saxophone entered into a rich dialogue built upon blues and bop. Labycz's vintage electronics are well beyond novelty as his jagged, brash timbres worked both rhythmically and sonically with the group as a whole. With Frank Rosaly working the trap set, this was an evening to feast upon excellent drumming.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Supporting and Destroying Tradition

The Flying Luttenbachers: ...The Truth is a Fucking Lie... 1999. UgExplode Records: GR61cd/ug10.

Weasel Walter: drums, trumpets, electronics, mellotron
Kurt Johnson: bass guitar
Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello
Chuck Falzone: electric guitar, abyssic guitar
William Pisarri: bass guitar, shriek, clarinet
Michael Colligan: reeds
Dylan Posa: conductor, casio
Julie Pomerleau: violin

The world may not have been - nor be - ready for The Flying Luttenbachers. But it does need them. Music bound up within a tight knot of contradictions. There is something deeply cleansing about their dirty, gritty sound. Along with an uncompromising honesty to see the "truth" as a lie. Improvising musicians from the Chicago scene late in the twentieth century guided by Weasel Walter's insatiable drive to realize a brutal prog sound. The open embrace of noise and a willingness to play with it with unbridled aggression has produced a record that has aged well.

Ellery Eskelin: Forms. 2004. Hat Hut Records: hatOLOGY 592.

Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone
Drew Gress: double bass
Phil Haynes: drums

Even the most talented free players are not immune to the charges of being somehow unable to play "straight" or inside the tradition. Often leveled by people who don't realize that playing "free" can be far more challenging. With Forms, Ellery Eskelin put together a nice F.U. to that kind of criticism. With tracks titled after the styles Eskelin employs; "Blues," "Ballad," "Latin," "Bebop" and so on, Eskelin shows off not only his ability to play "inside," but his compositional ability as well. Teamed up with a rhythm section of heavy hitters in Gress and Haynes, this music doesn't feel constrained at all by the tradition. Far from it. It turns out to be a good record full of inventive twists from one of the most relentlessly creative figures on the scene.

Dave Douglas: Sanctuary. 1997. Avant: 066.

Dave Doulgas: trumpet
Cuong Vu: trumpet
Yuka Honda: sampler
Anthony Coleman: sampler
Hilliard Green: bass
Mark Dresser: bass
Chris Speed: saxophone
Dougie Bowne: drums

Still a staple in the HurdAudio sonic ideal. The musicians on this recording have such strong personalities and the playing is so free that this becomes a double-disc game of picking out who is adding what to the overall sound at any given moment. This one hits a rare balance between structure and un-structure that soars in the hands and ears of these players. The presence of two samplers adding a constant destabilizing foil to the sound with the appearance and disappearance of sampled grooves combined with Dougie Bowne's excellent drumming. One can hear faint hints of the kind of electronic sound Dave Douglas would later be mining in the decade that followed.

Forces Set in Motion

George Lewis & Alexander von Schlippenbach @ Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Friday, November 12, 2010

Interactive Trio (2007)
George Lewis: trombone
Alexander von Schlippenbach: piano
Lewis interactive music system: piano

Improvisation as a Way of Life: A Conversation with Arnold I. Davidson, George Lewis, and Alexander von Schlippenbach

The AACM Great Black Music Ensemble with George Lewis and Alexander von Schlippenbach
George Lewis: conductor
Alexander von Schlippenbach: piano
Mwata Bowden: director, conductor, baritone saxophone
Nicole Mitchell: flutes, voice, conductor
Douglas Ewart: sopranino saxophone, flute
Ernest Khabeer Dawkins: alto saxophone
Edwin Daugherty: alto saxophone
Fred Jackson: alto saxophone
Ari Brown: tenor saxophone
Edward House: tenor saxophone
Leon Q. Allen: trumpet
Jerome Croswell: trumpet
Ben Lamar Gay: trumpet
Shaun Johnson: trumpet
Dee Alexander: voice
Aisha Scott: voice
Saalik Ziyad: voice
Ann E. Ward: voice, piano
Khari B.: spoken word
Harrison Bankhead: bass
Dawi Williams: bass
Art "Turk" Burton: percussion
Coco Elysses: percussion
Vincent Davis: drums
Mike Reed: drums

Composer, improviser and scholar George Lewis has a preference for stepping back once he has set things in motion. His interactive music system, a manifestation of his decades of work with electronics and computer programming, represents his personal approach toward improvisation realized in algorithmic form. He has developed a methodology that allows the computer to "hear" and respond in much the same way an improvising musician does. With a bit of the real-time maintenance to insure that his device was operating properly, Lewis would wander off the stage to indulge in a bit of the audience perspective as Alexander von Schlippenbach explored a piano duo environment with the machine. George Lewis then returned to the stage to contribute his own "input" to the environment with his trombone. All with the calm, professorial demeanor of the Edwin H. Case professor of American Music at Columbia University.

Likewise, after setting the AACM Great Black Music Ensemble in motion with his own conduction, George Lewis again wandered off stage for an audience perspective. A large ensemble of talented improvisers capable of lurching in multiple directions both with or without a designated "leader" operating from the podium. Over the course of this performance the conduction duties were assumed by Nicole Mitchell and later by Mwata Bowden before Lewis returned to the stage for the final applause of the evening. The Association for the Advancement of Creative Music - an organization now 45 years strong fantastically documented by George Lewis in A Power Stronger Than Itself - is itself an organization that Lewis has helped shaped as a member that continues as another force set in motion.

This performance and panel discussion in Chicago's south side is another impressive example of the way the AACM has developed and grown a sympathetic audience for free improvisation. A daunting task that feels impossible in many other urban centers. Each part of the evening was presented with an honest transparency that never tripped over academic posturing or egocentric excess. An example of hospitable and challenging music.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Umbrella Music Festival - Day Five: Going Out on a Bomb and a Whisper

Sunday, November 7, 2010
Set 1:
The Outskirts @ The Hungry Brain, Chicago, IL
Dave Rempis: saxophones
Ingebrigt Haker Flaten: bass
Frank Rosaly: drums

Set 2: Touch the Earth II @ The Hungry Brain, Chicago, IL
Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, thumb piano
Gunter "Baby" Sommer: drums

The Umbrella Music Festival settled into the Hungry Brain for its final night of 2010. Drawing to a conclusion with contrasting sets that showed off both the explosive and introspective sides of the musical offerings for this year.

The Outskirts is a hard hitting ensemble that mines the aggressive free improvisation found along the Peter Brotzmann vein. Ingebrigt Haker Flaten brings a forceful, fist full of bass strings approach to his instrument that stretches his intonation into a rubber band elasticity. Which completely fit the sound for this scorched Earth set. Dave Rempis opened up like a fire hose on the saxophones while Frank Rosaly kept up on percussive battery. As is often the case with music that explores this kind of high intensity material, it's the moments when the group pulls back from the brink that reveal the humanity and inner workings of an emotionally raw creativity.

Wadada Leo Smith and Gunter "Baby" Sommer followed with something completely different. With no less intensity, the trumpet and drums duo explored an other worldly space built from a percolating tranquility. Both of these musicians tapping into an invisible force that moves them along a higher plane of creativity. The result was enthralling. A fitting final expressiveness that draws out what is possible through creative improvised music as an international collaboration.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Three Live Crews

Thomas Chapin Trio: Anima. (re-issued as disc 2 of Thomas Chapin: Alive box set in 1999). 1991. Knitting Factory Records: 35828-02482-2.

Thomas Chapin: alto saxophone, flute, alto flute, voice changer, laff box
Mario Pavone: bass
Steve Johns: drums
with Michael Sarin: drums, cowbells, whistles, ray gun (on selected tracks)

A live documentation of why this explosive trio was such a favored vehicle for Thomas Chapin's compositions and improvisational energies. Each member propels this sound further while still circling around back to its funky underpinnings. Mario Pavone has several moments of jaw dropping excellence on this set.

Anthony Braxton: Piano Quartet, Yoshi's 1994 [disc 1]. 1996. Music and Arts: CD 849.

Anthony Braxton: piano
Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, sporano saxophone, clarinet
Joe Fonda: bass
Arthur Fuller: percussion

I have some of the most Braxton sympathetic ears to be found anywhere and generally regard him to be a genius with an improbable number of recordings that support such high regard. This one really isn't one of those recordings. And yet I can't stop listening to and obsessing over this enormously flawed outing. Aside from the focus on jazz standards - which is an important dimension of Braxton's abilities as a performer and an improviser - there is also the oddity of Braxton as a pianist. He is much better as a reed player. The ten-thumbs approach to the instrument can become troubling at time. Particularly through long, fortissimo solos. But the way the outstanding musicians play through this material, even during the onslaught of heavy handed piano pounding, is fascinating. Anyone as prolific as Anthony Braxton is going to have a few duds out there. But even his duds are worth listening to.

Grex: Live at Home. 2010. SUA: 003.

Karl A. D. Evangelista: guitar, voice, etc.
M. Rei Scampavia: keyboards, winds, voice, etc.

The decision to record the pieces on this disc live preserves the fragility of this music to a startling extent. All the more surprising given the more obvious temptation to realize fully over-dubbed and polished realizations of this material. Karl Evangelista and M. Rei Scampavia deserve credit for recognizing the the qualities that emerge from the rehearsed effort of getting these down in a single take along with the vibrancy of this music as a live experience. Hearing this music live has built up an interest in taking it home and living with it that this recording addresses nicely. It's a body of works that has a life of its own, with a connecting tissue that links it to Erik Satie, the Bloodhound Gang and jazz standards in a way that gently consumes (or is consumed) by the way it veers beyond mere reference at unexpected turns.

Umbrella Music Festival - Day Four: Playing with Intensity

Saturday, November 6, 2010
Set 1: Nick Broste Trio @ The Hideout, Chicago, IL
Nick Broste: trombone
Keefe Jackson: reeds
Anton Hatwich: bass

Set 2: Ljungkvist/Buis/McBride/Reed @ The Hideout, Chicago, IL
Fredrik Ljungkvist: reeds
Joost Buis: trombone
Nate McBride: bass
Mike Reed: drums

Set 3: Trio 3 @ The Hideout, Chicago, IL
Oliver Lake: saxophones
Reggie Workman: bass
Andrew Cyrille: drums

The theme of the fourth night of the Umbrella Music Festival was scorched Earth. As each set featured playing that burned just a bit hotter than the frightening Fahrenheit that preceded it. And wasn't that the heat came with volume - though there was no shortage of that - as it did with the display of raw ability and musicianship that could navigate both within and around traditional jazz forms with the implicit threat of toppling those forms ever present. Much of the deep history of the music was itself embodied by the players themselves in the form of Trio 3. A group with roots reaching deep into the sound itself.

The Nick Broste Trio featured a set of straight ahead writing for bass, reeds and trombone. The progressive surprises lurked around the edges of the writing and improvising of this music as the heads of each tune would take oblique angles as the players themselves were clearly familiar with each nook and cranny of the music. The chemistry between these three was also hard to miss.

The combination of Swiss reedsman Fredrik Ljungkvist, Dutch trombonist Joost Buis with Chicago's drum and bass combination of Mike Reed and Nate McBride was a clear example of the kind of cross-Atlantic collaboration that the Umbrella Music organization takes much deserved pride in. These players take raw sound and fearlessly push each other creatively to explore uncompromising heights through improvisation. Their set of free material could have easily become unhinged in the hands of less experienced and capable players. The give and take moved steadily toward more "take" as they fearlessly piled on exquisite layers leading up to some screaming clarinet from Ljungkvist. It was a tremendous thrill ride.

Trio 3 then took to the stage long before the dust had settled from the previous set. One could feel the energy of the packed house at the Hideout change as the reverence toward the lifetime of musical accomplishments of Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille was palpable. Along with a disbelief that all three could be present in such an intimate venue. Then they positively peeled the paint off the walls with their playing. In a festival that brings so many genre-bending performances that vary between free improvisation and reading from charts, Trio 3 presented a forceful reminder of just how much potential and freedom can be mined from a creative approach toward the blues and other blistering interpretations of form. These veterans of jazz were well beyond the terms "titans" or "lions." They are master musicians clearly stating a case for a music's past, present and future as an organic whole.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Umbrella Music Festival - Day Three: Witness to Legends

Friday, November 5, 2010
Set 1:
Slow Cycle @ Elastic, Chicago, IL
Josh Berman: cornet
Jason Stein: bass clarinet
Nate McBride: bass
Frank Rosaly: drums

Set 2:
David S. Ware Solo @ Elastic, Chicago, IL
David S. Ware: sopranino saxophone, tenor saxophone

Set 3:
Mark Helias' Open Loose @ Elastic, Chicago, IL
Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone
Mark Helias: bass
Tom Rainey: drums

The Umbrella Music Festival folded into one of its regular venues after whetting the appetite with two nights of free music. The packed house listened attentively as an astonishing array of legends of improvised music provided the strongest evening yet for the festival.

Slow Cycle brings a stripped down approach toward its mining of the free jazz vein opened up by Ornette Coleman more than fifty years ago. Frank Rosaly's drum kit consisting of little more than a kick, snare, high hat and one cymbal. A physical manifestation of the essence of this group aesthetic. And they attack their craft with a passionate aggression that places these players solidly on the spectrum of Coleman, Cherry, Haden and Higgins. Complete with a renewed sense of energy as this quartet brings its own sense of individuality and timbral variation to a sound that remains the shape of things to come.

This was followed by the almost indescribably moving force of David S. Ware's solo performance. Sitting in the front row, literally at the feet of this master musician was an experience of surprisingly mystical dimensions. His first piece thoroughly explored the startling range of the sopranino saxophone with a sound that occasionally climbed just within the ear drums. He then turned his attention to the tenor saxophone for an even more impressive improvisation.

Then came the trio of all-stars known as Mark Helias' Open Loose with a music that exuded that great New York sound from every possible angle. From Helias' compositions and creative direction to the always stunning playing of both Tom Rainey (a long time favorite drummer at this blog) and Ellery Eskelin. Eskelin's playing seemed to have impossibly evolved even beyond his high level of playing from the last time I heard him play live. He has become a real stand out on the tenor.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Umbrella Music Festival - Day Two: Two Tubas and Some Saxophones

Thursday, November 4, 2010
Set 1:
Chicago Luzern Exchange @ Randolph Street Cafe, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Josh Berman: cornet
Marc Unternahrer: tuba
Keefe Jackson: reeds
Frank Rosaly: drums

Set 2:
Waclaw Zimpel Quartet @ Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Waclaw Zimpel: bass clarinet
Matt Schneider: guitar
Devin Hoff: bass
Tim Daisy: drums

Set 3:
The Long Run Development of the Universe @ Randolph Street Cafe, Chicago Cultural Center, IL
Carl Ludwig Hubsch: tuba
Wolter Wierbos: trombone
Matthias Schubert: tenor saxophone

Set 4:
Fredrik Ljungkvist Sextet @ Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Fredrik Ljungkvist: reeds
Nicole Mitchell: flute
Nick Mazzarella: alto saxophone
Jim Baker: piano, synthesizer
Joshua Abrams: bass
Marc Riordan: drums

The energy and fluctuating forces of creative music continued into the second evening of performances at the Umbrella Music Festival as the celebration of European and Chicago improvisers concluded its stint at the Chicago Cultural Center. Jazz has truly become a music without hard borders and the quality and inventiveness of its European practitioners makes for a compelling counterbalance to the more conservative forces within North America.

The Chicago Luzern Exchange offered up a set of pointillistic free improvisation. Short gestures from the individual members of this quartet came together to form phrases stretched across the group as a whole as they explored a range of timbral variation through an extensive use of mutes and frictions. Marc Unternahrer's deft agility on the tuba was immediately striking.

Waclaw Zimpel's set featured a collection of charts by the talented bass clarinetist from Poland. Anchored by the profoundly impressive rhythm section of Devin Hoff and Tin Daisy, this music occupied a bright spot along the jazz continuum. Zimpel's sense of form left plenty of room for exquisite cadenzas and codas as the occasional augmented second would appear as an aural expression of his geographical influences.

This was followed by a big bang of creative music expression in the form of The Long Run Development of the Universe down in the Randolph Street Cafe. The German and Dutch trio of Hubsch, Wierbos and Schubert served up an irreverent, theatrical and wickedly mischievous set that relied upon equal parts high energy and deep musical chops. Theirs was a reminder that relentlessly open and experimental music can also be whimsical and fun.

The highlight of the evening was the final set featuring the Fredrik Ljungkvist Sextet. A collection of Chicago all-stars at Ljungkvist's disposal as the ensemble played through his excellent charts. The combination of great writing with a high caliber of musicianship to back it up is a formula that rarely falls short. The transitions between ideas formed a series of waves as great solos and arrangements kept churning throughout the set.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Umbrella Music Festival - Day One: Swinging from Austere to Groove

Fifth Annual Umbrella Music Festival - Day One
November 3, 2010

First Set:
Xavier Charles Trio @ Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Xavier Charles: clarinet
Nate McBride: bass
Tim Daisy: drums

Second Set:
Marraffa/Braida Duo @ Preston-Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Edoardo Marraffa: tenor saxophone, sopranino saxophone
Alberto Braida: piano

Third Set:
Kurzmann/Falzone Duo @ Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Christof Kurzmann: electronics
James Falzone: clarinet

Fourth Set:
Agusti Fernandez @ Preston-Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Agusti Fernandez: piano

Fifth Set:
Joost Buis Ensemble @ Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Joost Buis: trombone
Josh Berman: cornet
Jorrit Dijkstra: alto saxophone
Keefe Jackson: tenor saxophone
Dave Rempis: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
Matt Schneider: guitar
Jason Roebke: bass
Mike Reed: drums
Charles Rumback: drums

The strong ties between the Chicago improvisers of the Umbrella Music organization and their fellow creative music travelers from Europe was on full display as the fifth annual Umbrella Music Festival got under way at the Chicago Cultural Center. The sympathetic vibrations shared across the Atlantic allowed for instant collaborations to form. The five sets of the evening followed an unusual contour from uncompromising, full length free improvisations of coarse textures leading into a groove steady, accessible set of pieces by Joost Buis.

French clarinetist Xavier Charles builds improvisation around the edges of his instrument. Around the edges of texture and perceptibility. With Chicago's Nate McBride and Tim Daisy on bass and drums (easily one of the more impressive rhythm sections I've discovered in my brief time in the windy city) he had a ready made trio made up of profoundly sympathetic ears. The trio explored a texture of grains and gestures that cut sharp slash marks across time with its restlessness. Drawing the ears into a territory of whispered contours.

The Italian duo of Edoardo Marraffa and Alberto Braida followed with a set of considerable force and fortissimo. Operating like skilled stone carvers, this pair left considerable shards of stone and rubble in their wake with a sound made up of muscle. Their ability to respond and react to one another allowed them to pull back from time to time and reveal the human tendons and connecting tissue that allow them to flex their brutality with a balance of sensitivity.

The duo of Austria's Christof Kurzmann on laptop with Chicago's James Falzone on clarinet offered up a timbral interplay between the electronic and acoustic. Each improviser showing restraint that barely hinted at the considerable potential lurking within their respective talents. It was a beautiful tour de force of phrasing woven against an intricate drone that settled toward a sense of pulse toward the end.

Spain's Agusti Fernandez's solo piano set was the highlight of the evening. Beginning exclusively within the innards of the piano with brilliantly subtle, quiet sounds. This performance built into a fantastic crescendo as Fernandez's physical relationship with the grand piano as a whole evolved toward a keyboard language of glissando and harmonic material that mirrored the quiet universe found within the instrument earlier in the performance. The continuity of gestures and the intensity of building such a large sound over a generous span of time gave this performance tremendous gravity.

The closing set from the Joost Buis Ensemble offered up charts and featured soloists from a great band. With material that ranged from whimsical materials hinting at Raymond Scott to raw, free improvisations poured into predetermined structures and spaces. Focal points shifted democratically to allow each individual force to emerge into the foreground within the natural ebb and flow of the compositions. The line between the notated and improvised material often blurred by a creative sense of form. It was a welcome dose of the Amsterdam sound that these ears have grown increasingly curious about.