Jim Black's Alasnoaxis | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jim Black's Alasnoaxis 

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As the drummer for Dave Douglas's Tiny Bell Trio, Tim Berne's Bloodcount, Ellery Eskelin's trio, and a slew of other groups, Jim Black disassembles the beat like a kid who gleefully wrecks a Lego castle to build new shapes with the blocks--and then, without a moment's pause, snaps the original construction back together perfectly. Just as often he ditches pulse outright: on "He Has a Pair of Dice," a tune from Swell Henry (Squealer), the new album from Chris Speed's Yeah No, Black continually collapses the groove and stokes his bandmates' solos with manic, splattery blurts of energy and color. Given his well-established tendency to screw around, the third album by his quartet Alasnoaxis, Habyor (Winter & Winter), comes as a shock. Not only is it song focused instead of improv based--the group precisely executes somber instrumentals reminiscent of Radiohead or Tortoise--but the drumming is practically straight. (Well, straight for Black: he still refracts and displaces his own patterns by dropping in jarring accents or phasing with himself.) Speed provides the front-and-center voice with tenor sax or clarinet, sometimes in unison with guitarist Hilmar Jensson, and bassist Skuli Sverrisson helps the bandleader hold down the grooves. The arrangements create powerful moods instead of fading into the background behind flashy solos, and Black's slow-moving melodies allow for plenty of subtle harmonic development. Tuesday 12, 9:30 PM, 3030, 3030 W. Cortland, 773-862-3616, $5-$10 suggested donation. All ages.

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

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