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Mind Games 

When: Sun., Oct. 27, 10 p.m. 2013
Price: $7 suggested donation
On its self-titled debut album, released last year by Israeli label OutNow, this New York collective exuberantly seesaws between texture-oriented improvisations and propulsive, melodic compositions, and that duality never feels like incoherence or incompatibility. The malleable rhythm section of bassist James Ilgenfritz and percussionist Andrew Drury—both of whom have studied under and worked with Anthony Braxton—has a lot to with that. On the opening improvisation they rub, scrape, and bow their instruments so that it’s hard to distinguish them from the striated whinnies and sour long tones of alto saxophonist Angelika Niescier or the inside-the-piano machinations of Denman Maroney (he calls his prepared-piano techniques “hyperpiano”). On the next piece, the wobbly Maroney composition “One Off, or Two,” Ilgenfritz and Drury recalibrate, adopting a more conventional role as the ensemble’s backbone, accelerating and decelerating behind a sing-songy theme, which provides fertile ground for a jagged yet tuneful single-finger piano solo and a stately saxophonr improvisation. Mind Games also blurs the distinctions between composition and improvisation: some of the wildly kinetic spontaneous pieces erupt in flashes of quicksilver melody that sound like they could’ve been written out, and some of the composed works (such as Ilgenfritz’s “Canter”) lurch between coloristic abstraction and loosely arranged melodic fragments in a way that sounds off-the-cuff. The group clearly prefers delicate, dynamic interaction over roaring, uncut energy—though it has plenty of the latter in reserve. This is Mind Games’ Chicago debut. —Peter Margasak

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