Eyvind Kang | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Eyvind Kang 

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In 1997 Eyvind Kang told a writer from the British magazine the Wire: "I don't have a good destination point. I just do whatever." The rapid expansion of the violinist's discography since then leaves little doubt that this is true in a sense--but Kang's not by any means an aimless player. Of Korean descent but raised in Iceland and Canada, he began playing the violin at age six using the Suzuki method, but after studying European classical music for a decade and a half he discovered jazz. In the last decade he's worked with musicians of all stripes in as many stylistic contexts: he's a member of Bill Frisell's jazz quartet, plays in the metafusion trio Dying Ground, frequently collaborates with avant ethnic rockers the Sun City Girls, and has backed a raft of pop singers ranging from Mexican thrush Ely Guerra to adult-contempo singer-songwriter Robin Holcomb. The three superb albums he's recorded for John Zorn's Tzadik label--7 Nades (1996), Theater of Mineral Nades (1998), and The Story of Iceland (2000)--are composed and recorded in mosaiclike detail. In addition to Kang's own multitracked violin, guitar, keyboards, mandolin, tuba, oud, and erhu, there are richly layered arrangements of brass, ethnic percussion, harmonium, voices, harpsichord--you name it. These albums smoothly synthesize Kang's seemingly infinite interests, weaving together bits of Indian pop, reggae, spaghetti-western sound tracks, gamelan music, and spooky rock--the distended epic "10:10," from The Story of Iceland, sounds like an outtake from Bowie's Scary Monsters. Each composition flows into the next with a beautiful logic, mood and melody dictating direction. On MBEK (Meniscus), Kang's recent duo recording with bassist Michael Bisio, he shows himself to be a superb improviser as well, drawing on all of these references as well as the more expected phraseology of jazz and free improv. This weekend at the Asian American Jazz Festival, Kang will perform in two trios. The first is with Israeli percussionist Raz Mesinai--who's experimented with fusions of dub and Arabic music in Sub Dub and Badawi--and Amir Koushkani, a young master of the Iranian stringed instrument called the tar, with whom Kang has released a gorgeous new album called In the Path of Love (Golbarg Productions). The recording features improvisations on themes rooted in Persian and Indian music that Koushkani composed. That's Saturday, October 27, at 8 PM at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago; 312-397-4010. The following evening at 7, also at the MCA, Kang will team up with guitarist Elliott Sharp behind Saadet Turkoz, an excellent singer from Kazakhstan who grew up in Turkey and experiments with traditional songs from both countries.

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