Dana Jessen, Michael Attias, Magda Mayas, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Frank Rosaly | Hungry Brain | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Dana Jessen, Michael Attias, Magda Mayas, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Frank Rosaly Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Sun., Jan. 31, 10 p.m. 2010

There's no predicting what this ad hoc transatlantic assemblage of improvisers will sound like, but the diversity and eccentricity of the musical personalities on hand ought to produce something interesting no matter what. Fluent, stylish saxophonist MICHAËL ATTIAS—whose long history with local cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm includes playing together in New York combos like Peep and Anthony Coleman's Self-Haters in the early 90s—is the most jazz-oriented participant. On the excellent new Renku in Coimbra (Clean Feed), a trio outing with bassist John Hebert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi, he's impressively limber and resourceful, creating a graceful continuity even when he pares a solo down to a series of elliptical phrases. A sharp version of Lee Konitz's "Thingin'" evokes west-coast cool, while the original tune "Do and the Birds" both lurches and glides, its interactions more turbulent but no less intuitive. At the other end of the spectrum—that is, with the least connection to jazz—is Berlin pianist MAGDA MAYAS, a brilliant experimenter enamored of playing the instrument's innards. On Gold (Creative Sources), a recent duo album with drummer Tony Buck (who just played here with the Necks), she only occasionally touches the ivories, preferring to scrape, rake, and thwack the strings with her fingers, a variety of mallets, and other objects I can't guess at. Her dissonant tone clusters, damped notes, and percussive splatter—it sometimes sounds like she's banging on the piano's frame—mesh beautifully with Buck's swirling ruckus and bowed drones. Rounding out the group are drummer Frank Rosaly, who excels in all sorts of contexts, and Amsterdam-based bassoonist Dana Jessen, a classical player who's nurturing a growing devotion to improvised music —Peter Margasak

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