Veteran improvising cellist Tristan Honsinger achieves a new level of expression with his string trio In the Sea 

click to enlarge In the Sea

In the Sea

Ken Weiss

Cellist Tristan Honsinger fled his native America in 1969 to avoid the draft, settling in Montreal, where he discovered improvised music and changed his musical life. Starting in 1974 he lived in Europe, bouncing around between Paris, Florence, and Amsterdam, where he built his reputation as an indefatigably curious player who worked with a who’s who of heavies including guitarist Derek Bailey, pianist Cecil Taylor, and saxophonist Evan Parker. Over the last couple of decades his best-known work has occurred within the ICP Orchestra, where his ferociously textured bowed improvisations and love of slapstick and European cabaret music have proved simpatico with the absurdist tendencies and surprise-laden MO of founders Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink. Lately he’s enjoyed a kind of Montreal homecoming under the moniker In the Sea, his warped aesthetic achieving its fullest expression alongside a few of the city’s younger musicians. Drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli contributes sprawling propulsion to the group’s 2015 debut, Henry Crabapple Disappear (Astral Spirits), but In the Sea’s eponymous new album for Relative Pitch features just a string trio, allowing the players to settle into a chamberlike collision of approaches. Double bassist Nicolas Caloia and violinist Joshua Zubot bring brio and care to Honsinger’s pieces, which draw from classical music, Italian folk, and his aforementioned slapstick aesthetic, loads of nonsensical singing alternately limning pretty melodies and harnessing pure chaos. Improvisation and attuned interplay between the players define the music more than the composed themes—it’s sometimes hard to know when one composed piece ends and the improvisation begins. This is the trio’s Chicago debut.   v

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