Wolter Wierbos | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Wolter Wierbos 

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There isn't much Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos can't do. He's played precise chamber jazz with Maarten Altena, garrulous open-ended freebop with Gerry Hemingway, and throbbing postpunk with the Ex. Yet you can pick his distinctive personality out of even the busiest melee--he's the European answer to great, boundary-busting Americans like Ray Anderson and George Lewis. He speaks the classic trombone vocabulary as naturally as he does Dutch, mixing throaty growls, fat smears, elegant slinkiness, and impeccable wah-wahs like some long-lost Ellington sideman, but he's just as adept when he gets abstract. Wierbos doesn't like to let himself get too comfy, so he constantly puts himself in new and awkward spots. As Kevin Whitehead writes in New Dutch Swing, he "regularly ignores parts written for him to come up with something better on his own." And when he has neither a score to play with nor other musicians to play off of--as on last year's superb solo improv album, X Caliber (ICP)--he still tries to throw himself curveballs. Throughout the collection's three lengthy pieces, "A Demonstration," "Of Extreme," and "Trombone Techniques," he's perpetually rooting around for the next clever variation or bold leap forward. The opener, for example, plays out something like this: heavy inhaling and exhaling through the horn gains in intensity, giving way to horse-lipped chugging and brash chortling. A sound like bubbles blown through a straw morphs into sour squeals, equine whinnies, and eventually a recognizably trombonelike cadence. That's an elegant little riff, but before long Wierbos rips it into puckered blurts, Donald Duck sputters, deep growls, and didgeridoolike multiphonics. Despite the song titles, though, the whole is more than the sum of his sonic tricks. Wierbos makes his local solo debut Wednesday at 9:30 PM at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. He'll also sit in with the Chicago Bridge Unit Sunday at 8 PM at the Goose Island Brewpub, 1800 N. Clybourn, 312-915-0071; with Witches & Devils Monday at 9 PM at the Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-0011; and with the Vandermark 5 Tuesday at 9:30 at the Empty Bottle. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo y Camilla Von Zylen.

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