A quartet led by two of the more distinctive instrumentalists in modern music comes to town–and the big news is that they’re bringing drummer Barry Altschul with them. Altschul, who has described his own stylistic range as “from ragtime to no time,” is one of the pioneering percussionists of the free-jazz revolution; with his spare, crisp, mercurial style, he can shift gears instantaneously, accommodating even the slipperiest bands. In the late 60s he contributed to the floaty, mysterious music of pianist Paul Bley, and in the early 70s he brought a hell-for-leather minimalism to Circle, the group fronted by Chick Corea and Anthony Braxton. Altschul’s 1977 album You Can’t Name Your Own Tune, with Muhal Richard Abrams, Dave Holland, George Lewis, and Sam Rivers, has long been a favorite of mine–it’s an early example of a veteran experimenter using carefully chosen forms and structures to reorder free jazz. The presence of such a venerated elder in this band implies a benediction on its leaders: like Altschul, both reedist Gebhard Ullmann and trombonist Steve Swell are thoughtful, well-rounded musicians who draw on a wide range of experience. Swell trained with Roswell Rudd early in his career, and you can hear it in his full, buttery sound, which gives even his most radical melodic flights a bluesy heft. Ullmann commands an intimidating variety of techniques on an arsenal of saxes and clarinets–but he understates his virtuosity, instead making it subservient to the thrust of his solos. $10. Thursday and Friday, June 17 and 18, 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 21281/2 S. Indiana; 312-791-9050. The group also plays a free in-store Friday, June 18, 5 PM, Jazz Record Mart, 444 N. Wabash; 312-222-1467.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jacky LePage.