This weekend the International Society for Improvised Music holds its second annual conference at Northwestern University. It’s an academic event, but the sprawling array of performances and papers, by both academics and important musicians, offers something of interest for laymen. I’ve already mentioned the performances by Lebanon’s Mazen Kerbaj with Chicago percussionist Michael Zerang, but among the other participants are reedists Vinny Golia, Oliver Lake, Jane Ira Bloom, Douglas Ewart, Paul Scea, and Joe Giardullo, flutist Nicole Mitchell, pianists Art Lande, Denman Marooney, and Greg Burk, bassist Mark Dresser, composer Pauline Oliveros, and guitarist Dom Minasi. Not a bad collection of musical thinkers. The conference kicks off Friday morning and runs through Sunday. Registration is $100 ($30 for students); tickets for single events are also available for $20. The conference Web site offers PDF downloads of the entire schedule as well as bios for the participants.

Today’s playlist:

Roberto Fonseca, Zamazu (Enja/Justin Time)
Jim Lauderdale, Bluegrass Diaries (Yep Roc)
Linda Thompson, Versatile Heart (Rounder)
Santa Maria, Santa Maria (Slottet)
Territory Band-6, Collide (Okka Disk)