Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones, Dave Rempis & Mars Williams | Elastic | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones, Dave Rempis & Mars Williams Recommended All Ages Soundboard Image

When: Mon., Nov. 7, 9 p.m. 2016

I first heard the singing of Indian vocalist Amirtha Kidambi harmonizing on the bizarre modern madrigals of songwriter-composer Charlie Looker in the wonderful Seaven Teares. A performer with a serious contemporary-classical background, she was also part of the quartet of voices that saxophonist Darius Jones used for his peculiar Oversoul Manual projects. But Holy Science (Northern Spy), the gripping debut by her quartet Elder Ones, puts her where her artistic heart currently resides, mixing fearless improvisation and ideas from Carnatic music. On “Sathya-Yuga” she plays a droning, bellowing chord on harmonium while singing a relatively simple, wordless melody akin to an alap, the melodic improvisation that opens a raja—at least until the groove kicks in. She then elaborates on her melodies using seven syllables, each assigned to different parts of her vocal range, as she improvises within each extended composition. Her concept taps into the exploratory music of Alice Coltrane, and the strong, elastic, shape-shifting circular grooves sketched out by bassist Brandon Lopez and drummer Max Jaffe give her unlimited vistas to explore. At the same time her singing is complemented by the sometimes slaloming, sometimes exploding improvised soprano saxophone lines of Matt Nelson (Battle Trance), underlining the Coltrane influence. The pieces aren’t static—instruments drop out, emphasis shifts, rhythms mutate—but the quartet’s conviction and power never falter. The saxophone duo of Mars Williams and Dave Rempis opens.

Peter Margasak

Price: $10 suggested donation

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