Astral Spirits Festival: Tashi Dorji, Thom Nguyen, and Tyler Damon; Nick Mazzarella, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, and Avreeayl Ra; Ben Bennett; Tim Stine Trio Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Sat., July 23, 8 p.m. 2016

In the last couple of years Austin label Astral Spirits has emerged as one of the more interesting labels in improvised music, usually issuing bold sounds by up-and-coming players on limited-run cassette releases—though imprint owner Nathan Cross has begun releasing titles on vinyl too. A large percentage of the roster hails from Chicago, so it makes sense that the label has decided to host a weekend of concerts in town. I’m thrilled that someone is finally releasing the self-titled debut by the Tim Stine Trio—I’ve had a digital copy of the record made by guitarist Stine with bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Frank Rosaly for a year or so, and it remains as beguiling and rich as ever. Stine plays acoustic guitar and writes knotty, slaloming lines that express melodies in sudden rushes of activity—tangles of tightly clustered notes are followed by measures of silence, as if Derek Bailey had decided he wanted to swing again. Hatwich and Rosaly do an excellent job at giving the music a brisk energy, and their playing eschews any kind of clutter, giving the leader a sophisticated, spacious platform on which to embroider heaving-and-retreating melodies. For tonight’s performance Adam Vida subs on drums. The rest of this evening’s lineup is as strong. A trio featuring saxophonist Nick Mazzarella, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, and drummer Avreeayl Ra gives only its third appearance ever (the group's fiery debut at Constellation on September 8, 2014, was released on the label last year as Azimuth). Stunning North Carolina-based Bhutanese guitarist Tashi Dorji here presents a sound different from his usual acoustic work, delivering high-octane electric improv on a new duo recording with drummer Tyler Damon called Live at the Spot; tonight they’ll play in a trio with drummer Thom Nguyen. The lineup is rounded out by Philadelphia percussionist Ben Bennett.

Peter Margasak

Price: $12, $10 in advance

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