Oakland’s Ben Goldberg is a prime mover in the ongoing jazz-clarinet renaissance, progressive division, but on a raft of recent recordings he avoids the split tones and shrieks favored by many new-breed licorice-stick players. Although Goldberg’s been on the scene since the dawn of the 90s–leading the revisionist New Klezmer Trio, whose two superb albums used traditional klezmer as a compositional jumping-off point–only in the last few years has he started to earn the acclaim he deserves. Recognition has come slowly in part because although he’s a fine soloist with an impressively pure tone, he’s expended much of his energy writing for a variety of group configurations. Goldberg’s lovely, deceptively subdued tunes are riddled with serpentine melodies, and they demand that musicians leave their indulgences at the door. On the recent Eight Phrases for Jefferson Rubin (Victo), a sextet featuring two basses plays tightly controlled abstractions, while on What Comes Before (Tzadik), Goldberg, guitarist John Schott, and drummer Michael Sarin trade phrases as delicate as fine china. In his Chicago debut Goldberg will perform with reedist Ken Vandermark, bassist Kent Kessler, and drummer Tim Mulvenna–a lineup instrumentally identical to the one on Goldberg’s recent album with fellow clarinetist Marty Ehrlich, Light at the Crossroads (Songlines). That was a calm but knotty chamber-jazz affair, and as these Chicagoans frequently enjoy playing with blustery energy, it should be interesting to discover the points where they intersect with Goldberg. Wednesday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Goldberg also performs solo on Thursday at 9 PM at Xoinx Tea Room, 2933 N. Lincoln; 773-665-1336.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.