Achim Kaufmann Trio | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Achim Kaufmann Trio 

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German-born pianist Achim Kaufmann started his career in the 80s, working in a variety of free-improv, fusion, and mainstream jazz contexts, but it wasn't until 1996, when he moved to Amsterdam, that his playing truly took flight. The city has long been a springboard for creative musicians, and its anything-goes scene demands a focus and rigor that seem to have galvanized Kaufmann. His first solo piano album, Knives (Leo, 2004), is a mostly improvised affair, but his pieces also reveal a strong contemporary classical sensibility, spiked as they are with unusual harmonies and extended techniques. Quite a few feature prepared piano--where Kaufmann sticks objects like plastic rulers or a tuning wedge into the instrument--and on others he simply reaches in with his hands to pluck the strings. But the album's not all so willfully abstract: for his superb reading of Herbie Nichols's classic "2300 Skiddoo" he breaks the tune into its various components at the start, then slowly brings the pieces back together. Kaufmann and the band he's bringing to this show are also the core players on The Definition of a Toy (Songlines), the new album credited to drummer Dylan van der Schyff. Kaufmann and reedist Michael Moore contribute very different-sounding pieces--Kaufmann's "Siberian Elm and Furrowed Brown" is a shape-shifting postbop exercise marked by advanced harmony, while Moore's title track nicely combines an easygoing swing sensibility and chamber-jazz voicings. I imagine the trio will play a mix of composed pieces and improvisations at this show, its Chicago debut; Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos will perform solo to kick the show off, but knowing how collegial the Dutch scene is I wouldn't be surprised if he joined in during their set. Sun 10/2, 3 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages.

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