the Thing with Joe McPhee; DJs John Corbett vs. Paal Nilssen-Love | Hideout | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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the Thing with Joe McPhee; DJs John Corbett vs. Paal Nilssen-Love Critic's Choice Recommended The List (Music) Soundboard

When: Wed., June 16, 9:30 p.m. 2010
Price: $10
Saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, aka mighty Scandinavian trio the Thing, have two basic approaches to playing together: they either do covers, by rock bands (the Ex, the Sonics, the White Stripes), jazz greats (Don Cherry, Albert Ayler, Duke Ellington), and the occasional avant-garde composer like Ake Hodell, or they freely improvise epic set-long pieces. Regardless of the format, though, they draw on the musical languages of rock, jazz, free improvisation, and the avant-garde—and they play like they're trying to call down the apocalypse. On last year's bulldozing Bag It! (Smalltown Superjazzz), recorded in Chicago with Steve Albini, five of the seven tunes are covers—the Ex's version of "Hidegen Fujnak a Szelek," Ellington's "Mystery Song," Ayler's "Angels"—and the band distorts and dissects them with raw soulfulness and unhinged ferocity. Occasionally Gustafsson (or sometimes Haaker Flaten) adds live electronics that sound just as nasty as his searing, overblown sax—it's as though the music has worked up such a head of steam that it needs that extra outlet to keep it from exploding. As much as they love flooring it, though, the Thing aren't afraid of quiet: on the live bonus disc included with Bag It! and on Shinjuku Crawl, a recent live album with guitarist Otomo Yoshihide (better known as a turntablist), they cover a huge dynamic range, from quavering tones hovering ominously at the threshold of audibility all the way to high-energy free-form blowouts. For tonight's show they're joined by Poughkeepsie multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, whose recordings with the Thing include the superb 2001 album She Knows . . . (Crazy Wisdom). —Peter Margasak



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