Hassles Credit: Peter Gannushkin

It’s never been a secret that Chicago free-jazz reedist Ken Vandermark is inspired by punk rock; it’s obvious in the the raw directness of his performance and the pile-driver energy of his playing. For years he’s worked with inventive self-taught guitarists Terrie Hessels and Andy Moor of Amsterdam postpunk juggernaut the Ex—a group that came to embrace improvisational music out of its DIY roots—in a quartet with Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love called Lean Left. The group plays without guidelines, and the members’ collective interest in noise, punk spirit, and unbridled exploration has produced consistently thrilling, abstract, and hard-hitting music where a howling din and flinty riffs are plowed together in serrated, scalding heaps of sound. On last year’s I Forgot to Breathe (Trost) the quartet revealed an ongoing restlessness: as the guitarists rudely stab, probe, and shout in terse, metallic shards, Vandermark skirts both the six-string wreckage and Nilssen-Love’s spastic beats and scraping metal. Tonight a new quartet called Hassles will make its Chicago debut on the end of a short U.S. tour; the band also includes Hessels and Nilssen-Love, but the impetus behind the project augurs a much different aesthetic than Lean Left’s confrontational attack. When Vandermark, Nilssen-Love, and New York trombonist Steve Swell played some gigs with superb Norwegian bassist Jon Rune Strøm (Friends & Neighbors, Universal Indians) in Europe, they conjured the notion of a high-end free-jazz combo smashing into the autodidact provocations of Hessels—who serves as the wrench in the works. Although Swell isn’t part of this group, I’m excited for what’s sure to be an exhilarating collision.   v