Chilean trumpeter Benjamín Vergara returns to Chicago to celebrate the instant bonds he formed with local musicians | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Chilean trumpeter Benjamín Vergara returns to Chicago to celebrate the instant bonds he formed with local musicians 

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click to enlarge Benjamín Vergara

Benjamín Vergara

Courtesy the artist

One of the most wonderful phenomena in the world of improvised music is that players can come together with little more than an introduction and proceed to create work in which they rapidly forge common ground. Few words need to be spoken, as sound transcends all manner of cultural differences. Chilean trumpeter Benjamín Vergara, whom I hadn’t previously heard, visited Chicago a couple of years ago armed with little more than some recommendations from his fellow trumpeter Jacob Wick, a former local. Among the configurations that arose from his stay was an agile quartet with reedist Keefe Jackson, pianist and ARP synth master Jim Baker, and drummer Phil Sudderberg, and the group was so convinced by the rapport among them that they made a recording after playing together only twice. The album that resulted, The Hallowed Plant (Relative Pitch), won’t be released until September, but the quartet will reconvene when Vergara returns to Chicago this week. The phrases blown by the two horn men seem to arise from thin air on the album’s title track, which is so naturally musical I assumed the group was playing a composition, but Jackson set me straight—everything was improvised. The musicians cover lots of ground together, from loosey-goosey postbop where Sudderberg’s inherent swing sensibility brings an infectious propulsion to the multilinear attack: lines switch between abstract smears and abrasions and tart, terse tunefulness. The final part of “This Moves That” illustrates that the quartet can slow things down, delivering the feel of a tender ballad that’s pushed along by Baker’s austere chords. “La Repentina Ola” provides a much different atmosphere, with Baker moving to analog synthesizer to produce alien sound swells over which the horn players alternate between chatty rapid-fire staccato and sour long tones. But as Sudderberg ratchets up the energy and kinetic motion, Jackson and Vergara follow suit, taking an aggressive approach that’s absent on the first half of the album. Given the nature of improvised music, there’s no predicting how this quartet will sound tonight, but the excellence of the recording suggests it’s a risk worth taking. Vergara also performs Wednesday, July 18, at Beat Kitchen with guitarist Peter Maunu, vocalist Carol Genetti, and drummer Julian Kirshner as well as Thursday, July 19, at Elastic with Baker, Kirshner, and bassist Kent Kessler.  v

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