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One improviser’s atonality is another’s pantonality. If you’re a musician coming from a classical background, you might hear a leaping, all-pitches-available melody line as free from all notions of key, thereby demanding improvising strategies divorced from traditional harmony: rearranging tone rows or focusing on particular textures or rhythm strategies. If your ears are jazz trained, you might hear a rangy chord progression under the same line and try to flesh out the material laterally. If you’re, say, Anthony Braxton, you might see it all in symbolic terms, as a projection of cosmic forces in motion: the whirl of subatomic particles, lights on a satellite. Oboist Kyle Bruckmann’s new quintet, Ma Non Troppo–which displays the continuing influence of Chicago- and AACM-bred composers Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams–allows all those viewpoints to exist in the same space. Bruckmann and violist Jen Clare Paulson typify the city’s new breed of trained interpreters, unafraid to wing it away from staved paper. From the jazz side come trombonist Jeb Bishop, who has a knack for imbuing Bruckmann’s thorny contours with headlong momentum, and springy drummer Tim Daisy, who on a recent gig with Scott Rosenberg’s biggish band demonstrated he can give any problematic chart a fighting chance. Bassist Kurt Johnson (ex-Richmond Symphony, ex-Flying Luttenbachers) straddles camps. For Bruckmann a small ensemble is a logical step after solo and duo CDs, Entymology (Barely Auditable) and And (Musica Genera), on which he bravely confronted the oboe’s relatively limited dynamic and timbral range. A recording from a house concert in July shows the band stumbling a bit on the convoluted heads, but that’s the kind of problem rehearsals can remedy; the more focused collectively improvised sections reveal the quintet’s real growth potential. And the combination is new enough to allow the players to surprise themselves as they discover their group identity. Friday, September 13, 8 PM, Recital Hall, Fine Arts Center, Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N. Saint Louis; 773-442-4636.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.