Free Music Ensemble | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Free Music Ensemble 

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Ken Vandermark (reeds), Nate McBride (acoustic bass), and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums) really stretch out on their third and latest album, Cuts (Okka Disk): the shortest of the five tracks is more than eight minutes long and the whole disc clocks in at 74:24. But the playing is so focused that every gesture counts, and the transitions from full-steam-ahead free jazz to rumbling acoustic funk to near-silent ballads sound effortless. Vandermark's compositions designate the primary melody, melodic accompaniment, and rhythmic content, but decisions about which player will take each role and the order in which different parts of a piece will be played are renegotiated at each performance. So a piece that emphasizes a bold saxophone over an implacable bass cadence in one set might reappear in the next with the drums articulating the melody and the sax keeping rhythm. This show kicks off the group's third tour in a year. Wed 9/14, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andreas Froland.


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