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Depending on how you look at it, the local jazz and improvised music scene is either annoyingly incestuous or deeply collaborative. I prefer the second option. In Chicago, more often than not, mixing up the combinations of players doesn’t just yield varied ensemble sounds, but reveals different sides of individual musicians. Tomorrow night, May 23, a new trio with bassist Josh Abrams, vibist Jason Adasiewicz, and drummer Nori Tanaka makes its debut at the Hideout (cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm will also do a solo set). Based on the four demo tracks I’ve heard, AAT unleashes a stunningly spare, measured sound strongly at odds with the more frenetic and aggressive approach Chicago is known for.
The nominal foreground star and key melodist is Adasiewicz, a constantly improving talent who’s never sounded so restrained. Over loose, spacious grooves, he clearly revels in the gorgeous vibrato of his instrument. It’s not as wide and warm as the tone of someone like Milt Jackson, but it’s there, in all of its stark glory, both in slowly unfolding melodic phrases or in coolly hydroplaning vamps, as on "Cold in Spring." (That song also features a highly tuneful midpiece solo by Tanaka, one of the most unheralded and flexible percussionists in town.) Elsewhere, when Abrams lays down high velocity walking lines, the light touch of the vibist reminds me of the great Walt Dickerson. On “Trance #2,” Abrams plays the bass-like Moroccan string instrument called the guembri, carving out a hypnotic groove over which Adasiewicz unfurls metallic lines by playing the vibes with the wooded end of his mallets. New groups come and go quickly, but based on what I’ve heard, I hope this one sticks around for a while.