Topology, Akira Sakata and Chikamorachi, Head With Wings | Hungry Brain | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Topology, Akira Sakata and Chikamorachi, Head With Wings Critic's Choice Recommended The List (Music) Soundboard

When: Sun., Nov. 8, 9 p.m. 2009
Price: $15 suggested donation
Topology, Joe McPhee noted in his liner notes to his 1981 album of that name, is a form of mathematics that "deals with all conceivable forms, abstract and multidimensional as well as those that can be drawn." That description also pretty much nails the Poughkeepsie-based multi-instrumentalist's extraordinarily inclusive music. His recent playing in totally improvised settings encompasses the full range of conventional and nonconventional technique on a myriad of reed and brass instruments and resonates sympathetically with such disparate accompaniments as the muffled traffic heard through the bar's door on the upcoming live solo LP Alto (Roaratorio) and the engulfing cacophony of nearly a dozen other impassioned improvisers with Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet. But on the records he made during the 70s and 80s for the Swiss Hat Hut labels, he found ways to play just as freely while deeply engaging specific elements of jazz's roots and branches; lusty blues on "Knox," Ayler-esque gospel on "Astral Spirits," and Miles Davis's baleful funk on "Future Retrospective." Those are among the ten tunes that Ken Vandermark has arranged for Topology, a group he's convened to play that Hat Hut-era material; it includes Jeb Bishop, Tim Daisy, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Jason Adasiewicz, Josh Berman, Dave Rempis, Ken Kessler, and featured soloist Joe McPhee on pocket trumpet and fluegelhorn. McPhee also plays in a duo with local cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm on Monday at the U. of C.'s Bond Chapel. —Bill Meyer

When Japanese reedist Akira Sakata came to the world's attention in the early 70s as a member of the explosive free-jazz trio led by pianist Yosuke Yamashita, his driving, manic energy and exploratory upper-register squalls were hallmarks of his searing improvisational style. By the early 80s, though, after striking out on his own, he'd either lost his way or was hell-bent on trying something radically different—singing Japanese folk songs, making pop-leaning records, getting mixed up with electric bassist and producer Bill Laswell. But happily, in the past half-decade or so Sakata has rediscovered his focus and killer sound. I don't know if former Chicagoan Jim O'Rourke is responsible for this shift, but he's been playing with and producing records for Sakata, enlisting two American colleagues—drummer Chris Corsano and bassist Darin Gray—as his working band, Chikamorachi. On Friendly Pants (Family Vineyard), the first Sakata recording released stateside in decades, the reedist unleashes plenty of sinus-clearing torrents, but his playing also reveals a refreshing compositional logic and lyrical tenderness. O'Rourke stays behind the board, spotlighting what an effective, empathetic trio Chikamorachi has become. This show is part of the Umbrella Music Festival. Sakata also plays at the Hideout on Saturday, where he's joined by bassist Nate McBride, guitarist Jeff Parker, and drummer John Herndon—essentially Ken Vandermark's Powerhouse Sound without Vandermark. —Peter Margasak


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