Cellist Daniel Levin returns to Chicago with quartet music and an improvised duo with Tim Daisy | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Cellist Daniel Levin returns to Chicago with quartet music and an improvised duo with Tim Daisy


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New York-based cellist Daniel Levin is in the midst of another busy year, toggling between rigorous free improvisation and outward-bound ensemble-oriented projects. He’s at his most visceral on the new Spinning Jenny, an abrasive improvised session with double bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and percussionist Chris Corsano, where terse arco jabs and knotted-up pizzicato patterns turn up as often as snaking, exploratory lines, and the bare-knuckled attack by all three creates an exhilarating physicality. The music on 2015’s New Artifacts is also entirely improvised, but in the company of saxophonist Tony Malaby and violist Mat Maneri, Levin casts a very different spell. Though its four long pieces eschew fixed structure, their layers of lilting gestures, pregnant sobs, and lyrical soliloquies rearrange songlike cadences in real time. More germane to this evening’s concert is Live at Firehouse 12, a luminescent quartet album with Maneri, vibist Matt Moran, and bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg focusing on darkly atmospheric Levin compositions that slither, glide, and coil like snakes, with all sorts of harrowing harmonic movement and fleeting interaction among the players. Some of that material will probably turn up when a semiregular Chicago iteration of that band—with cornetist Josh Berman, bassist Joshua Abrams, and vibist Jason Adasiewicz—performs tonight (Levin has made a summer visit to Chicago into a kind of annual tradition). The other half of the evening will feature improvised duets between Levin and percussionist Tim Daisy.   v

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