Agusti Fernandez, Edoardo Marraffa & Alberto Braida | Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Agusti Fernandez, Edoardo Marraffa & Alberto Braida Free All Ages Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Wed., Nov. 3, 7:15 p.m. 2010

The fifth Umbrella Music Festival kicks off today with the first half of European Jazz Meets Chicago, a sort of mini festival that for the first time will last two nights instead of one.

Over the past few years Italian pianist ALBERTO BRAIDA has worked with a lengthening list of European heavies, among them John Butcher, John Edwards, and Wilbert de Joode. Unlike many pianists from his country, who tend toward either puckish humor or romantic melancholy, he prefers abstraction and dissonance, borrowing heavily from contemporary classical music; in his improvisations he makes generous use of silence and a dynamic range that runs to the extreme at either end. He'll play in a duet here with Italian saxophonist EDOARDO MARRAFFA, whose name was new to me when this year's Umbrella schedule was announced. What I've heard from him since, though, has made me a fan—his wonderfully tart, biting tone would remind me of Roland Kirk even if he weren't also skilled at playing two horns at once. Marraffa and Braida recently released Redshift (Setola di Maiale), an improvised session whose harmonic explorations ripple with controlled energy and burst with the joy of spontaneous discovery.

Over the past decade pianist AGUSTÍ FERNANDEZ has emerged as arguably Spain's preeminent free improviser, his stormy playing imbued with a deep knowledge of jazz history. As a teenager in the late 70s he was heavily influenced by Cecil Taylor—you can hear it in his ferociously percussive runs and phrase-capping clusters—and studied contemporary classical music with Iannis Xenakis, and the style he's developed combines an acute rhythmic sensibility with thoughtful exploration of harmony and density. He's at his best on the 2009 trio album Un Llamp Que no S'acaba Mai (Psi), with bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders: the session was improvised freely, but its surges of gorgeous, turbulent melody and coruscating color arrive with an electric urgency, as though the trio were speeding along a familiar racecourse and knew every twist and turn. This solo set is Fernandez's Chicago debut. See also Joost Buis Ensemble, Christof Kurzmann & James Falzone, Xavier Charles Trio. —Peter Margasak

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