Topology featuring Joe McPhee, Josh Berman, Jeb Bishop, Ken Vandermark, Dave Rempis, and others | Elastic | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Topology featuring Joe McPhee, Josh Berman, Jeb Bishop, Ken Vandermark, Dave Rempis, and others 

When: Thu., June 2, 10 p.m. 2011
Thirty years ago multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee told a room full of European improvisers to think about the blues not as a form but as a feeling. Then he showed them what he meant with some gorgeously tentative notes from his pocket trumpet (he plays various saxophones and clarinets as well as brass), and they responded in kind. The title of "Blues for New Chicago," which appeared on the out-of-print Hat Art release Topology, honored both the birthplace of his girlfriend at the time and the hometown of Buck Rogers. In 1981, when Topology came out, McPhee had never performed here, but since 1996 he's been an honorary Chicagoan; local musicians have become some of his most sympathetic and enduring partners. Among them are saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, cellist and electronicist Fred Lonberg-Holm, and percussionist Michael Zerang, all of whom play with him in Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet. Lonberg-Holm and Zerang also comprise Survival Unit III, one of McPhee's standing ensembles. The tumultuous performances on their new Syncronicity (Harmonic Convergence) show that McPhee, now in his early 70s, has neither mellowed nor settled into routine; playing mainly the alto sax, a horn he rarely touched till the past decade, he clears space for his anguished blues within a soundscape of acid static and kaleidoscopic abrasions. Tonight he'll improvise freely with Vandermark, Zerang, and vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, a newer-to-him Chicago face—the two of them first shared a stage in late 2009 as bandmates in Topology, a nine-piece group Vandermark formed to play McPhee's old compositions. See also Friday. McPhee also plays with Survival Unit III on Fri 6/3 at 9 PM at Logan Hardware, 2410 W. Fullerton; that show's free, and Extraordinary Popular Delusions open. —Bill Meyer

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