ASSIF TSAHAR TRIO
I've often touted the strength and breadth of Chicago's free-jazz and improvised-music scene, but it's still dwarfed by what goes on in New York City. We have no one on par, for example, with brawny tenor players like Charles Gayle and David S. Ware, both of whom are well into middle age but started recording regularly only in the 90s. Nor can we boast anyone like Israeli-born Assif Tsahar, who at a year shy of 30 is taking Gayle and Ware's Albert Ayler-esque screech to the next level. On his scorching 1997 debut, Shekhina (Eremite), recorded live with bassist William Parker and percussionist Susie Ibarra, Tsahar combines Gayle's ferocious, relentless overblowing with the gnarled, tart phrasing of Archie Shepp. Yet a restrained bit of melancholy like "Hidden Heart" demonstrates that Tsahar isn't all bluster. The rhythm section--as it is in Ware's quartet, Matthew Shipp's piano trio, and Parker's own big band--is superb; in particular, Ibarra manages to be intense without being loud, busy, or invasive. Even better than Shekhina is the brand-new Ein Sof (Silkheart), recorded with the same group six months later. It could be that its different tone was set merely by the studio environment, but Tsahar also seems markedly more comfortable and the level of interaction and communication higher. The six parts of "Ephemeral Symbiosis" are perfect vignettes, each spending just a couple of minutes exploring an idea, while the longer, hypnotic "Through Forgotten Ancestors" proves this trio has no problem developing concepts over the long haul. This is Tsahar's Chicago debut. Thursday, April 16, 8 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; 708-383-8873. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Assif Tsahar; Susie Ibarra; William Parker photos.