More Umbrella Action: Christof Kurzmann | Bleader

More Umbrella Action: Christof Kurzmann


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Christof Kurzmann
  • Christof Kurzmann
I didn't have room to write about everybody in my coverage of this year’s Umbrella Music Festival, which begins tonight with five performances at the Chicago Cultural Center. But every single act certainly deserves to get written about. This evening is the first half of the mini fest European Jazz Meets Chicago, and the one act on the bill that I wasn’t able to cover was the duo of local clarinetist James Falzone and Christof Kurzmann, a fascinating improviser from Vienna who’s now based in Buenos Aires.

In the early 90s Kurzmann became one of the earliest folks to use a laptop as an improvised-music instrument. He worked frequently with musicians from the earliest lineup of Polwechsel—guitarist Burkhard Stangl, cellist Michael Moser, and bassist Werner Dafeldecker—around the same time other early laptop musicians like Fennesz and Pita were also busy in Vienna, creating less improv-reliant work. Throughout the decade he grew more active as a live musician; he organized a big experimental electronic-music festival, and at the end of the 90s he launched his own Charhizma label. Though the label released plenty of experimental stuff, it also issued warped pop-leaning music from B. Fleischmann and outside folk experiments by singer Margareth Kammerer. Since then he’s been one of the busiest and most reliable figures in electroacoustic improv, collaborating with top-notch players of varying stylistic orientations.

For much of the past five years Kurzmann has reacted to the hyper-reductionist music he’s helped make famous (well, in relative terms), even as he continues to work in that vein. In the quartets Magic I.D. and the Year Of, as well as his duo with Stangl called Schnee (which played Chicago in 2006), he’s been dabbling in pop melodies and vocals. Below you can hear a lovely example of this approach: a lengthy track from Neuschnee (ErstPop), a 2009 album with Stangl.

More germane to his performance with Falzone is Kurzmann’s 2006 duo album with British reedist John Butcher, The Big Misunderstanding Between Hertz and Megahertz (Potlatch). Few saxophonists can produce unsaxophonelike sounds the way Butcher does, and the duo create streaming, rustling noises and amorphous shapes that are surprisingly similar in register and timbre but still allow the listener to easily distinguish who’s doing what.

Kurzmann and Falzone perform tonight at 8 PM as part of the opening-night lineup of European Jazz Meets Chicago at the Cultural Center. It's free.

Christof Kurzmann and Burkhard Stangl, “Gredler”:

Today’s playlist:

Roky Erickson with Okkervil River, True Love Cast Out All Evil (Anti-)
Munadjat Yulchieva & Ensemble Shavkat Mirzaev, A Haunting Voice (Network)
Tita Lima, Possibilidades (Label A.)
Orlando Marin & His Orchestra, Que Chevere Vol. II (Alegre/Fania)
Axel Dörner, John Schröder, Clayton Thomas, and Oliver Steidle, Das Treffen (Jazzwerkstatt)

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