No one in Japan's contemporary improvised music scene is as hard to fit in a box as guitarist TETUZI AKIYAMA. Like fellow guitarist Taku Sugimoto and electronic musician Toshimaru Nakamura, he's a deft practitioner of gesture-based minimalism; his ensemble Bject (with reedist Masahiko Okura and synth player Utah Kawasaki) injects long-form improvisations with almost imperceptible but striking details. On Pre-Existence (Locust), an all-acoustic solo album he released last year, Akiyama puts a distinctive spin on fingerstyle guitar, unleashing rapid-fire tangles of notes and dissonant snarls and letting his endings hang inconclusively. On the first half of last year's Route 13 to the Gates of Hell: Live in Tokyo (Headz), he slightly amplifies his acoustic guitar to play more melodic ruminations, suggesting a less bluesy Loren MazzaCane Connors; on the second half he goes for in-the-red electric choogle, and his dirty riffs sound like ZZ Top tunes melted down to ingots. This is his Chicago debut.
Since leaving town a few years back, saxophonist MATANA ROBERTS has immersed herself in the New York scene; The Calling (Utech), a recent disc recorded with a version of her quartet there, shows she's better than ever at braiding together swing and free music. She's also preserved her Chicago ties: she still helms Sticks and Stones, her trio with drummer Chad Taylor and bassist Josh Abrams, and at this show she'll debut her I.C. Soultet, which features Abrams, guitarist Jeff Parker, and drummer Frank Rosaly. This performance is part of an ongoing autobiographical series; here she explores her family's migration to Chicago from Mississippi. --Peter Margasak
With his slow-moving, understated music, DAVID DANIELL makes a fine spokesman for the notion that anything worth doing is worth doing for a long, long time. Whether he's contributing moody strums and sculpted E-Bow drones to the guitar trio San Agustin or stringing computer-generated pings and bumps across gulfs of silence on Sem, his solo debut on his own Antiopic label, he develops his material patiently, the better to let you observe the sounds from every angle. Daniell recently moved here to study pedal steel with Ken Champion, but he'll stick to guitar for this duo set with DOUG McCOMBS of Brokeback and Tortoise. McCombs is best known as a bassist, but he plans to play lap steel and guitar at this show. --Bill Meyer
Tetuzi Akiyama headlines, Matana Roberts's I.C. Soultet plays second, and David Daniell & Doug McCombs open. Thu 6/6, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8.