Maarten Altena Octet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Maarten Altena Octet 

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I'm warning you up front: almost anything I say about this band will fail to capture the uniqueness of the experience, so plan on stopping by and figuring it out for yourself. Altena, a Dutch bassist whose prodigious technique is matched only by his iconoclasm, has jumbled together source music ranging from Mozart minuets to tangos to the film scores of Nino Rota to the hyperextended forays of Albert Ayler, and the results are anything but smooth: the octet bounces from style to style, breaking off (for example) in the midst of early-40s classicism to feature a screaming sax solo over rock-'n'-roll drums, and then returning to a delicate clarinet filigree. It's the intelligence of Altena's concept, and the exciting brilliance of his improvisers, that holds it all together and transforms the music from a medley of odd segues into one rich fabric (albeit a remarkably multicolored and -textured one). Just go, and we'll talk about it afterward. Saturday, 8:30 PM, Southend Musicworks, 224 N. Desplaines; 283-0531.

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


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