Taku Unami, Toshimaru Nakamura & Gene Coleman | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Taku Unami, Toshimaru Nakamura & Gene Coleman 

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In the past few years a fascinating group of Japanese experimental musicians has been cultivating an improvisation style so austere that even "minimalism" seems too noisy a term to describe it. In Berlin last year I caught a performance by guitarist Taku Sugimoto, the de facto leader of this movement; a two- or three-note cluster of damped guitar plucks marked a major shift, sandwiched as it was between three or four minutes of pure silence. There's something haughty about an approach that demands you either tune in or tune out completely--even the quiet chatter at a usual improv-music show wouldn't have been tolerated at that one. But it's hard for me not to applaud musicians who reveal that listening is a lost art. I don't know if this performance by Sugimoto's colleagues Taku Unami (computer) and Toshimaru Nakamura (no-input mixing board) with former Chicagoan Gene Coleman (bass clarinet) will have that extreme spartan quality, but it's a good bet it'll be spare. On Unami's 2004 solo disc, Intransigent Towards the Detectives of Capital (W.M.O/R), miniature gestures--sampled percussion, a quick splash of synthetic sibilance, a barely audible industrial hum--are doled out stingily, and each utterance has a sensual, delicious preciousness. Unami doesn't play on his new album, Kitsune-Hitori (Slub Music), but the 11 musicians who perform his two lengthy compositions use the same aesthetic, breaking the silence with a terse violin scrape or trumpet blurt. Nakamura, one of those 11, is no maximalist, but on a gorgeous three-CD concert recording on ErstLive with Keith Rowe (see Critic's Choice for Saturday), Sachiko M, and Otomo Yoshihide, he and his cohorts favor a more sustained web of sound. It's slow-moving music, but attentive listeners will find it packed with beautiful, subtle details. Mon 10/3, 6 PM, Shin Higuchi Institute, 3485 N. Clark, 773-528-1930, $15. All ages.

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