Trombonist Jacob Garchik has long been one of the more fascinating figures on New York’s improvised music scene, a terrific musician with a fertile imagination and unbridled curiosity. He’s become a trusted collaborator of the Kronos Quartet, creating dazzling arrangements of music from all around the world for the string quartet. For his 2012 recording The Heavens: The Atheist Gospel Trombone Album he contributed up to a dozen parts through overdubbing, creating a kind of one-man Brass Fantasy larded with rich counterpoint. He brings his most audacious project to Chicago this weekend. Inspired by the gothic ornamentation on old row houses now clad in aluminum siding, Ye Olde imagines Flatbush a millennium ago; Garchik conjured the idea to create pieces for a guitar-heavy combo that collide madrigals, medieval fanfares, prog rock, and sanguine improvisation alternately hilarious, solemn, and soulful—sometimes all at once. He’s the main frontline voice, but his coterie of guitarists—Mary Halvorson, Jonathan Goldberger, and Brandon Seabrook (tonight replaced by Ava Mendoza)—break out of the nifty riff-based architecture to let it rip all over the place, with drummer Vinnie Sperrazza providing serious propulsion through shifting time signatures. It’s as fun and silly as it is substantive.
Norwegian drummer Gard Nilssen has powered a ridiculous number of groups in recent years, from the punishing post-Supersilent trio Puma to the metallic free-jazz trio Bushman’s Revenge to the excellent freebop quartet Cortex. He’s emerged as one of the country’s best percussionists and most trustworthy names, and this weekend he introduces his own combo, Acoustic Unity—a hard-hitting freebop trio that pivots between the spirituality of Albert Ayler, the jagged swing of Archie Shepp, and the contemporary fury of Scandinavian quintet Atomic. Featuring saxophonist André Roligheten (Albatrosh) and bassist Petter Eldh, the trio’s muscular debut, 2015’s Firehouse (Clean Feed), is fueled by drumming that recalls the ceaseless energy of NRG Ensemble’s Steve Hunt. The group’s forthcoming Live in Europe—which, full disclosure, I wrote liner notes for—includes contributions from three top-notch saxophonists in Fredrik Ljungkvist, Kristoffer Alberts, and Jørgen Mathisen from three different concerts taped last year, and while the firepower is enhanced, there’s more patience and soul in the limber yet highly attuned performances. For Acoustic Unity’s U.S. debut the excellent Ole Morten Vågan subs for Eldh. v