Michael Formanek, Ellery Eskelin, Jacob Sacks, and Dan Weiss | Constellation | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Michael Formanek, Ellery Eskelin, Jacob Sacks, and Dan Weiss 

When: Fri., Oct. 25, 9:30 p.m. 2013
Price: $13, $10 in advance
Bassist Michael Formanek is a forceful player, but his music has an unassuming grace and generosity—even at its thorniest and most tightly wound, the clarity of its lines gives it room to breathe, and Formanek happily yields the spotlight to his bandmates. For most of the aughts he took a break from his performing and recording career, having moved from New York to Baltimore in 2003 to teach at the Peabody Conservatory, and it’s been fantastic to have him back. Since 2010 Formanek has made two terrific quartet albums for ECM with saxophonist Tim Berne, pianist Craig Taborn, and drummer Gerald Cleaver. The most recent, Small Places, captures the strong rapport the group achieved after several years together—doubtless bolstered by his relationship with Berne, which goes back to the 90s. For many years Formanek was the bassist in Berne’s knotty quartet Bloodcount, and he’s obviously been influenced by the experience—his compositions, like Berne’s, use lots of exhilarating counterpoint, with parts of the band moving at different speeds, heading in different directions, or forming different shapes. Formanek’s group has a less dense sound, though, thanks to his transparent tone and Taborn’s light touch. This week the bassist brings an excellent-looking new iteration of his quartet to Chicago, with players every bit as strong and malleable as the one’s they’re replacing: saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, pianist Jacob Sacks, and drummer Dan Weiss. —Peter Margasak

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