Pianist Matt Piet reinforces his vitality and versatility on City in a Garden | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Pianist Matt Piet reinforces his vitality and versatility on City in a Garden 

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Matt Piet

Matt Piet

Matt Schwerin

Pianist Matt Piet is a Palos Park native who jumped into the local improvised music scene in 2014 when he returned home after finishing his studies at Boston’s Berklee School of Music. Since then, he’s rapidly achieved an exalted status among a younger generation of musicians through his abiding sense of curiosity, drive to collaborate, and raw talent. Earlier this year Piet dropped Rummage Out (Clean Feed) and Throw Tomatoes (Astral Spirits), albums he made with two of the working combos he’s developed with players a generation older than he is—a sign of the respect he’s earned. Now he’s saluting his peers with City in a Garden (Ears & Eyes), a new recording built around duos, trios, and quartets with some of Chicago’s most promising rising talent across nine untitled improvisations (I’ll forgive Piet for approving the awful album cover, which looks like a clip-art silhouette of Chicago). Depending on the collaborator, Piet swings fiercely or unravels wonderful shattered-glass clusters and jagged runs, revealing a keen knowledge of the history of jazz and improvised music. He achieves an impressive, slow-moving introspection with Macie Stewart, who braids astringent long tones on violin and vocals that shift from mournful, wordless melodies to impressive overtone singing. His quartet with saxophonist Gerrit Hatcher, bassist Charlie Kirchen, and drummer Julian Kirshner is tightly coiled as close intervals, friction, and tangled phrases seethe like livewire lashing the ground in unpredictable spasms before the combo locks into a forceful swing, balancing propulsion with frenetic digressions and raw energy; when the group is reduced to a trio with Hatcher, Piet suggests the early work of Cecil Taylor with phrases that surge and recede in elegant flurries. Guitarist Steve Marquette (the Few) brings a nifty post-Derek Bailey mixture of string hammering and flinty friction to his duets with Piet, who offers a comparatively lush counterpoint. Most of the players on the record—Hatcher, Kirshner, drummer Bill Harris, and saxophonist Jake Wark—will reconvene tonight, joined by violinist Johanna Brock, bassist Eli Namay, and guitarist Matt Murphy in a variety of small groupings.   v

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