Ben Goldberg, Michael Coleman, and Hamir Atwal | Constellation | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Ben Goldberg, Michael Coleman, and Hamir Atwal 

When: Sat., March 21, 9:30 p.m. 2015
Price: $10
Bay Area clarinetist Ben Goldberg established himself long ago as a peerless improviser in a wide variety of contexts, and while he’s also always been an impressive composer, he’s elevated that game as of late. But nothing prepared me for his remarkable new album, Orphic Machine (BAG). The ten-part suite is dedicated to Allen Grossman, a former poetry professor of Goldberg’s at Brandeis University, who died last year. On it the composer excerpts Grossman’s writing, and, with the vocal assistance of violinist Carla Kihlstedt, arranges the poetry with a sensibility that’s utterly poetic in itself. “As soon as I begin / As soon as I begin to read / As soon as I being to read a poem I stop talking,” Kihlstedt delivers with sweet insistence on the album’s opener, “Reading.” The soulful arrangements and elegant melodies are beautiful sans vocals too, moving from chamberlike intimacy to postrock energy to polyphonic jazz richness without a hiccup. It also helps that he has such a stellar cast for the album: trumpeter Ron Miles, saxophonist Rob Sudduth, pianist Myra Melford, guitarist Nels Cline, vibist Kenny Wollesen, bassist Greg Cohen, and drummer Ches Smith all chip in. It’s clearly Goldberg’s baby, and it’s probably the strongest record I’ve heard yet this year. For tonight’s performance, the clarinetist arrives with a raw-edged trio that includes keyboardist Michael Coleman and drummer Hamir Atwal, who recently made an appealingly direct duet album with Goldberg called Clarinet and Drums. —Peter Margasak

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