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The improvising trio of Jim Baker, Keefe Jackson, and Julian Kirshner specializes in surprise

Chicago’s improvisational music community has launched plenty of transformational figures over the decades. But while iconic individuals such as Sun Ra, Roscoe Mitchell, and Henry Threadgill have all changed the way people around the world approach music, a thriving scene also needs players who keep the fires burning every week in local clubs. Keefe Jackson […]

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Charles Rumback’s trio reconciles freedom and lyricism on June Holiday

Like many other participants in Chicago’s contemporary jazz scene, drummer Charles Rumback is both a sideman and a leader. Whether backing singer-songwriters such as Steve Dawson and Angela James, playing space-bound Americana with guitarist Ryley Walker, swinging behind jazz saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi, or leading this trio with bassist John Tate and pianist Jim Baker, he […]

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The transnational Rempis/Lopez/Packard trio converges in Chicago

The seven tracks on the Rempis/Lopez/Packard trio’s superb debut CD, The Early Bird Gets (Aerophonic), are named after prehistoric avian animals. Anytime a jazz band invokes birds, the ur-Bird—Charlie Parker—inevitably comes to mind. And while no one’s going to mistake the trio’s music for bebop, it does swing more than you’d expect given the backgrounds […]

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One of the longest-running freely improvising ensembles on earth plays this (and nearly every) Monday in Roscoe Village

For improvisers, familiarity is a double-edged sword; if musicians get too comfortable with each other, inspiration can turn into habit. But there’s nothing quite so thrilling as the near-telepathic rapport of a group whose players know each other’s strengths and try to push each other to greater heights. The members of Extraordinary Popular Delusions have […]

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Drummer Charles Rumback’s distinctively lyric, ruminative aesthetic comes into sharp focus with his trio’s second album of 2017

Versatility has long been drummer Charles Rumback’s calling card, but his empathic, elastic range—which has included feverish free jazz, elegant pop-rock, and exploratory groove music—and commitment to ensemble play have sometimes hampered his name recognition. In spite of that, Rumback’s rumbling, post-Paul Motian sound is easily recognizable, and I’m glad he seems to have found […]

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Michael Zerang and Jim Baker, two indefatigable titans of Chicago’s improvised music community, celebrate 35 years of collaboration

The backbone of Chicago’s illustrious history of improvised music is made up of a small handful of indefatigable players who endlessly explore and play gigs—sometimes for just a handful of folks—but few have been as long devoted to spontaneous experimentation as keyboardist Jim Baker and percussionist Michael Zerang. Each Tuesday this month at the Hideout […]