Drummer Frank Rosaly's superb debut as a bandleader, Cicada Music (Delmark), began as the soundtrack for Scrappers, the 2010 documentary about Chicago scrap-metal scavengers. His original score featured both sparse percussion pieces, some of which were mixed with audio verite recordings of scrap yards featured in the film, and elegant compositions recorded with some of the Rosaly's cohorts from the local jazz and improvised music scene. After his work was completed, the drummer began thinking about keeping the band he'd assembled together as a working unit, so he fleshed the works out to function as vehicles for improvisation for the new group, also called Cicada Music. Their record suggests his instincts were correct. (Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes.)
Since moving to Chicago in 2001, Rosaly has been a fixture on the local scene, playing with countless groups, but it's only been in the last few years that he's focused on forming and writing music for his own. There's Green and Gold, which he formed to play the music of Sonny Simmons and Prince Lasha; Bootstrap, a quartet inspired by social resistance movements; and Todos de Pie!, a revisionist plena project. But Cicada Music is the first of his groups to release any music, and unlike those other bands, it has no particular conceptual underpinnings. Rather, Rosaly kept the group going in part because he loved playing with the personnel—clarinetist James Falzone, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, reedist Keefe Jackson, vibist Jason Adasiewicz, and bassist Jason Roebke—and, indeed, the music on Cicada Music is relatively simple, designed to give the musicians significant room to improvise. He also has a love for the timbre produced by clarinet and vibraphone together.
Rosaly will celebrate the release of the album with a performance on Wednesday at the Hideout. Below you can listen to "Driven," which starts as a melancholy ballad but opens up with plenty of scalding, extroverted multireed improvising.