Tobias Delius | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Tobias Delius 

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TOBIAS DELIUS

On two albums so far, the Amsterdam-based tenor saxophonist Tobias Delius has shown a preference for presenting his quartet's repertoire in two- and three-song medleys. But he doesn't seem to be doing it to make the material go down easier. As in other Dutch groups, such as the ICP Orchestra and the Clusone Trio--which both feature Han Bennink, also the drummer in Delius's band--the practice of splicing and skipping around from tune to tune is an essential characteristic of the music. Although the quartet often decides which tunes (written by Delius, cellist Tristan Honsinger, and bassist Joe Williamson) will be included in any given medley beforehand, the execution is spontaneous: the length of each component, which musician will signal the shifts, and how he'll cue the others is all determined on the fly. As demonstrated on Toby's Mloby (ICP), one of my favorite records of 2000, the group's razor-sharp intuitiveness makes the transitions seem as natural as breathing--even when stridency morphs into jauntiness, as when Honsinger's "Toby's Mloby 3" flows into Delius's "TWR." Boundaries between foreground and background are relaxed; Delius and Honsinger flit between unison and contrapuntal lines, and succinct solos from any of the four musicians are apt to erupt at any time. Delius's mastery of the tenor is sprawling, but the deep, warm richness of his tone is a constant, recalling the breathy sensuality of Ben Webster, the agile gravity of Sonny Rollins, and the pinched phrasing of Archie Shepp, and he uses extended technique sparingly. For his Chicago debut, unfortunately, Delius is traveling without his band, but he'll be joined by an excellent group of Chicagoans--trombonist Jeb Bishop, bassist Kent Kessler, and drummer Hamid Drake--who will rehearse some of his tunes prior to the gig. Wednesday, March 7, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. He'll also stick around town for a free free-improv session with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and ARPist Jim Baker. That's Friday, March 9, at 1 PM in the Flaxman Screening Room at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 112 S. Michigan; 312-899-5100.

PETER MARGASAK

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

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