Quin Kirchner Credit: Lizzie Kirchner

Drummer Quin Kirchner has quietly made himself an indispensable presence in Chicago’s music scene since Hurricane Katrina drove the Oak Park native to return from New Orleans in 2005. He’s now a consistent member of the pop band Wild Belle, but the lion’s share of his activity has been his work in a countless number of jazz and improvised-music groups, including bands led by saxophonists Nate Lepine and Dave McDonnell, pianist Paul Giallorenzo, and guitarist Tim Stine, among others. This week Kirchner is finally dropping the debut album by his own band, which shows his years of working and collaborating have clearly paid off. The Other Side of Time (Astral Spirits) is a sprawling double record that embraces the gritty sound of Chicago postbop while enfolding the fiery energy of the present, with occasional digressions into postrock and experimental music, like the stuttering two-part “Drums & Tines,” where Kirchner dubs minimalist kalimba patterns over his seductively dragging polyrhythmic kit playing. His excellent quintet features some of Chicago’s best improvisers in saxophonists Lepine, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, trombonist Nick Broste, and bassist Matt Ulery. Together they bring deep soul, contrapuntal richness, and spontaneous heat to a strong program of original pieces and vintage postbop gems by Sun Ra (“Brainville”), Charles Mingus (“The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife Are Some Jive Ass Slippers”), Andrew Hill (“Limbo”), and Paul Motian (“Mumbo Jumbo,” which features the horn players improvising with profound three-way interplay), as well as Brazilian arranger Arthur Verocai’s propulsive “Karina.” The drummer’s own tunes stand up to the comparison: there’s a sensual warmth to the arrangement of “Wondrous Eyes,” a ballad enhanced by a lovely Stein solo that makes it feel as timeless and familiar as anything else on the album. The smoldering tone poem “Together We Can Explore the Furthest Beyond,” which features guest pianist Ben Boye, touches on the spirituality of early 70s jazz. It all makes for the first great jazz record of 2018.   v