Critic's Choice/ music | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Critic's Choice/ music 


Some of Chicago's finest improvisers, like bassist Kent Kessler and bass clarinetist Gene Coleman, rarely get the opportunity to step out on their own and play solo. In fact it's unusual to hear unaccompanied music these days--players and venues seem more interested in exploring ensemble interplay than the univocal statement. But solo performance is a key challenge for any improviser: to get onstage without anyone else to lead, support, or follow, with no other ideas than your own. Michael Zerang and the Urbus Orbis Experimental Music Series have organized "All Alone," a series of solo concerts featuring some of the brightest lights on Chicago's new-music scene, including an evening with separate sets by Kessler and Coleman. The massive anchor for numerous groups, including the NRG Ensemble, Slam, Steelwool Trio, Steam, and the Vandermark Five, Kessler is an ideal team player. But anyone who's seen him take a solo in one of those groups can anticipate what he's capable of sans partners: tremendous melodic imagination, a big sound and woody tone, textural ingenuity, bowing prowess, and energy to spare. Where Kessler's home is clearly in new jazz, Coleman comes out of a contemporary classical lineage that includes Isang Yun, Iannis Xenakis, and Helmut Lachenmann, and he's equally accomplished as a composer and improviser. Strongly invested in expanding the language of the bass clarinet, Coleman often turns to extended techniques such as multiphonics and split tones, constructing sectional pieces out of disjunct note patterns, swooping glissandi, and static sound masses. A chance to see Coleman and Kessler play in tandem should also perk ears--Aural Ensemble, led by clarinetist and alto saxophonist Guillermo Gregorio and featuring Coleman (as well as percussionist Carrie Biolo and killer classical bassist Michael Cameron), will substitute Kessler for multi-instrumentalist Jim O'Rourke in a final local concert before the group performs at the prestigious Wiener Musik Gallerie in Vienna. Aural Ensemble plays Sunday, 3 PM, Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln; 773-327-6666. Kessler and Coleman play Thursday, October 31, 9 PM, Urbus Orbis, 1934 W. North; 773-252-4446.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Debra E. Levie.

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