Bassist Pascal Niggenkemper transforms his instrument into a tactile generator of sound | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Bassist Pascal Niggenkemper transforms his instrument into a tactile generator of sound

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In 2015 Franco-German bassist Pascal Niggenkemper dropped a bracing solo album called Look With Thine Ears (Clean Feed), serving up 13 visceral, aggressively tactile studies of his instrument. With the aid of sharp-edged amplification he revealed a particular genius for sound exploration. Niggenkemper prepared his bass with objects like Styrofoam or sticks, then bombarded it, bowing its strings like he was sawing through them and thwacking them to generate a fiercely snapping twang. Whether you like it or not, the album can’t help but impact the listener—Niggenkemper seems to be wrestling with and taming his double bass, training himself to apply techniques in a wide variety of contexts. He’s worked in a number of bands that, more or less, cleave to free-jazz orthodoxy, including Baloni with Joachim Badenhorst and a trio with trumpeter Thomas Heberer that performed in Chicago as part of the Umbrella Music Festival in 2011. Niggenkemper is also involved in a number of larger projects that blur the lines between free improvisation, pure sound, and experimental music: last year’s fantastic Talking Trash (Clean Feed), for example, is a sextet recording in which superb improvisers including pianist Eve Risser and clarinetist Joris Rühl apply drones, long tones, and extended techniques to the leader’s loose compositional structures, generating an experience marked by fascinating colors and textures. He can also play the conventional role of jazz bassist with efficiency and craft—but he’s at his best when he goes deep into sound for its own sake. Niggenkemper will perform solo and then improvise with a diverse Chicago group featuring Josh Berman on cornet, Jason Adasiewicz on vibraphone, and Aaron Zarzutzki on electronics.   v

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