For this week’s paper I wrote about a new record by reedist Matt Bauder and his New York-based band White Blue Yellow & Clouds. You wouldn’t know it from that disc–a warped salute to doo-wop, pop-soul, and the Beach Boys–but Bauder is one of the most exciting players to emerge from Chicago’s dynamic jazz and improvised-music community. In the two years he spent here before heading to Wesleyan for grad school back in 2001, he consistently demonstrated killer chops and impeccable taste both as an improviser and as a conceptualist, finding thrilling ways to use arrangement, composition, and electronic production to forge something new. His 2003 album Weary Already of the Way (482 Music) contains the most successful electronic manipulations of acoustic long tones I’ve ever heard.

Last spring Memorize the Sky–Bauder’s trio with longtime cohorts Zach Wallace and Aaron Siegel–released a gorgeous self-titled album on 482 Music. Although improvisation is crucial to the music, there are no solos–the spontaneity is all in service to the overall ensemble sound, a slow-moving, hovering soundscape that pulses at a luxuriant crawl. The focus is on textural detail: Wallace sometimes lets a single bass snap unfurl until the vibrations fall back into silence, as he does on “Field of Ice”; Siegel, who devoted his terrific solo album The Cabinet (Longbox) to unconventional percussive techniques, rubs, shakes, and caresses objects more than he beats them; and Bauder employs subtle, shimmering long tones and percussive tongue tricks (a la Mats Gustafsson), falling back on more traditional saxophone or clarinet articulation only as a secondary measure. The trio displays an astonishing intuitive connection, moving as a single unit and dissolving the arbitrary distinctions between experimental music, free improvisation, and sound art.

Bauder also turns up on the new Exploding Star Orchestra album with Bill Dixon that Miles Raymer wrote about last week, as well as the recent Every Morning, a History (Peacock), a composition-oriented album under Siegel’s name. The first of the two pieces, “A Diminished Thing,” is a sparse, somber solo by pianist Emily Manzo, who was in town a few weeks back with Christy & Emily and Till by Turning. The second piece, the title track, covers similar territory with a spindly chamber quartet–Bauder on clarinet, Jessica Pavone on viola, Leah Paul on flute, Siegel on vibraphone. It moves at a leisurely pace, its pungent harmonies hanging in the air and its jagged turns fostering an ominous tension. What all this demonstrates to me is that old-fashioned ideas about musical purity are dissolving, maybe for good–there doesn’t seem to be a pendulum swing coming to take things back in the other direction. Musicians have always listened to all kinds of stuff, but it’s no longer controversial when they explore disparate avenues in their own work.

Today’s playlist:

Speeq, Or–Live in Strasbourg (Red Note)
China, Simulacro (Candeeiro)
Morton Feldman, Three Voices (Col Legno)
Daouda Dembele, Daouda Dembele (Yaala Yaala)