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Byron Westbrook blurs the boundaries between natural and man-made environments on Mirror Views

There’s more than one way to immerse yourself in sound, and electronic musician Byron Westbrook seems to be working his way through as many options as he can. He’s run the soundboard for Phill Niblock, the loudest man in minimalism; under the name Corridors, he’s conducted concerts for absent instruments that involved audience members passing […]

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Ensemble dal Niente and Ken Vandermark explore the ties between chamber music and jazz

Ensemble dal Niente commissions and selects new music that earns the designation “new” not just because it’s freshly composed; it also challenges both players and audiences to experience performance in new ways. This program, jointly presented by Ear Taxi and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, draws on the resources of Chicago in two ways. First, […]

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Joshua Abrams and Chad Taylor concentrate their shared history in Mind Maintenance

Mind Maintenance is Joshua Abrams and Chad Taylor, two musicians whose concord transcends time, distance, genre, and instrumentation. They’ve been playing together since the 1990s, when they both lived in Chicago, and their collaborative relationship has endured since Taylor headed east 20 years ago. They’ve jointly backed the likes of singer Sam Prekop and cosmic […]

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Chicago has nurtured jazz since its infancy

There’s been jazz in Chicago for nearly as long as there’s been jazz. While jazz is commonly said to have ridden the rails to Chicago around 1916, when the Great Migration of African Americans from the south to the north kicked into gear, Dixieland bandleader Wilbur Sweatman had played gigs on the city’s south side […]

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Versatile instrumental trio Bitchin Bajas unspool new material at their first concert since 2019

For the past decade, local trio Bitchin Bajas have exemplified the virtues of patience and versatility. All three members play synthesizers, Cooper Crain and Daniel Quinlivan play organ, and Rob Frye plays woodwinds and percussion. They create plush, pulsing instrumentals with melodies that evolve at such a leisurely pace that you might not notice the […]

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An improvised-music summit offers contrasting experiences of community and austerity

The double album Houston 2012 captures a two-day encounter in October 2012 between English tabletop guitarist Keith Rowe and the experimental-music community of Houston, Texas. Rowe’s visit came about thanks to the initiative of Saint Louis double bassist Damon Smith, who lived in Texas at the time. While there Smith developed a strong working relationship […]

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A multigenerational trio reaffirms the wide-open aesthetic of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians

Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has made recordings over the past decade that celebrate uplifting movements, such as the Occupy protests and the civil rights struggle, and great jazz musicians, including Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. At first glance Sun Beans of Shimmering Light, a six-year-old concert recording of a group that played just a handful […]

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Natural Information Society reaches a new ecstatic peak with Evan Parker

While it’s impossible to pinpoint a single peak in John Coltrane’s vast discography, Ascension is one of his most intense expressions of transcendental intent. Local musician Joshua Abrams knows his Coltrane, so it’s no accident that he’s given the name Descension to this summit between his group Natural Information Society and English saxophonist (and fellow […]