Usually, to call a percussion improviser “busy” is a put-down; it implies excess, too many notes, and perhaps an immature need to impress through flashy technique at the expense of coherence. But Gregg Bendian is “busy” in a wholly different, and far more interesting, sense: he has a lot going on in his head, and this translates to the abundance of sonic information in his playing. He can certainly swing with the best of them, but he can also shift to a wonderfully multidimensional manner of sculpting noise that invites us to really taste the sound of sticks hitting things and at times he seems to forsake entirely the feeling of forward movement. A Bendian solo contrasts foreground with background, harsh with soft, sweet with bitter; this tremendously textural approach veers unpredictably from aching lyricism to a bright, disciplined stridency reminiscent of the ways in which percussion is used in some parts of Southeast Asia. Bendian, who recently performed and recorded as a member of pianist Cecil Taylor’s ensemble, visits this weekend with his own unit, comprising bassist Johannes Widenmueller and reedman Randy McKeon. Saturday, 8:30 pm, HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/P. Gravina.