Avant-garde jazz musicians have been uniting to better control their opportunities to perform, record, and engage with their communities at least since the 1960s, when the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) first convened in Chicago and the shorter-lived Jazz Composers Guild (which included Carla Bley, Sun Ra, Bill Dixon, and Archie Shepp) formed in New York City. Catalytic Sound, a cooperative of musicians from across the U.S. and Europe, takes those groups’ example into the 21st century. To date, its most public face has been a website where it solicits subscriptions (in return for access to exclusive musical offerings by members such as Ken Vandermark, Tashi Dorji, Elisabeth Harnik, and Bonnie Jones) and provides a platform for its 30 members to sell physical and digital albums. But the collective has also sponsored performance opportunities.
Last year, when COVID restrictions made concerts in front of audiences impossible, the first Catalytic Sound Festival happened strictly online. This year, between October 1 and 31, the second annual festival takes place in Vienna, Austria; Trondheim, Norway; three cities in the Netherlands; and three cities in the U.S., specifically New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. You can buy access to festival streams from the Catalytic Sound Bandcamp page, but almost every event is also open to in-person audiences, subject to the COVID-prevention protocols of each locale. The Chicago event takes place on three nights (October 14, 16, and 17) at Elastic Arts, and each date features three sets. While most of the performers are local, some come from Texas, New York, Maryland, and North Carolina; together the participants make up a multigenerational and pan-stylistic cross section of present improvisational practices. They include high-volume, higher-energy total-improv trio Kuzu, who celebrate the release of their latest album, All Your Ghosts in One Corner (Aerophonic), on Thursday night; octogenarian multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, who plays a first-time duet with local keyboardist and sound artist Olivia Block on Saturday; and DJ Damon Locks, who creates live sound collages on Sunday.
Catalytic Sound Festival, day one Featuring (in order of performance) a trio of Claire Rousay, Macie Stewart, and Ken Vandermark; Bonnie Jones; and Kuzu. Thu 10/14, 8 PM, Elastic Arts, Elastic Arts, 3429 W. Diversey, second floor, $25 ($5 for livestream), three-day pass $60, all ages
Catalytic Sound Festival, day two Featuring (in order of performance) a duo of Joe McPhee and Olivia Block; Tashi Dorji; and a quartet of Joe McPhee, Katinka Kleijn, Bonnie Jones, and Chris Corsano. Akira Sakata and Nana Omori play a streaming-only set. Sat 10/16, 8 PM, Elastic Arts, 3429 W. Diversey, second floor, $25 ($5 for livestream), three-day pass $60, all ages
Catalytic Sound Festival, day three Featuring (in order of performance) a duo of Mark Feldman and Tim Daisy; Damon Locks; and Marker. Sun 10/17, 8 PM, Elastic Arts, 3429 W. Diversey, second floor, $25 ($5 for livestream), three-day pass $60, all ages