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Ben Zucker’s stirring compositions are built on a lifetime of musical curiosity

Born in Pennsylvania, Ben Zucker lived in Berkeley, New England, and London before moving to Chicago for a graduate composition program at Northwestern University. He was excited to come here to study because he’d been a longtime fan of the city’s rich, varied musical scenes, including the jazz stalwarts in the AACM and the adventurous […]

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Chicago explorers Bitchin Bajas to pay homage to Sun Ra

Last fall Chicago drone explorers Bitchin Bajas released a cassette of synthesizer-only Sun Ra covers called Switched on Ra (Drag City). The trio of Cooper Crain, Rob Frye, and Dan Quinlivan combine feel-good vibes with versatility and flexibility—they’ve shape-shifted into a free-jazz-inspired combo on Frye’s 2021 solo LP, Exoplanet (Astral Spirits), and leaned into their […]

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Matchess draws music from the resources of memory on Sonescent

For roughly a decade, Chicago multi-instrumentalist Whitney Johnson maintained a fairly steady developmental arc with her solo project, Matchess. Her songs, which comprised layers of viola, organ, tape loops, drum machine, and voice, progressively materialized out of a murky, analog fog; the hooky, propulsive tracks on the 2018 release Sacracorpa glided like a lucid dream […]

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Joshua Abrams and Chad Taylor concentrate their shared history in Mind Maintenance

Mind Maintenance is Joshua Abrams and Chad Taylor, two musicians whose concord transcends time, distance, genre, and instrumentation. They’ve been playing together since the 1990s, when they both lived in Chicago, and their collaborative relationship has endured since Taylor headed east 20 years ago. They’ve jointly backed the likes of singer Sam Prekop and cosmic […]

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David Grubbs, Rob Mazurek, and Mats Gustafsson take a musical road trip as the Underflow

The Underflow take their name from the Greek record store where guitarist David Grubbs, cornetist Rob Mazurek, and saxophonist Mats Gustafsson played their first trio gig in May 2019. But the connections joining the three musicians were forged in the 1990s, when Grubbs and Mazurek were associated with Chicago’s postrock scene and the Sweden-born Gustafsson […]

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Buddhist teacher Lama Lobsang Palden and local multi-instrumentalist Jim Becker partner to make healing sounds

Ten years ago, Jim Becker sought out yoga and meditation teacher Lama Lobsang Palden, hoping to find physical and spiritual healing. But at the end of their first encounter, Palden told the local multi-instrumentalist that they should make an album together. Three years later, they began the protracted process that resulted in the new Drag […]