Drummer Mark Guiliana moves toward acoustic music on his second album as a leader, but his fluency in electronic music remains | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Drummer Mark Guiliana moves toward acoustic music on his second album as a leader, but his fluency in electronic music remains

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Drummer Mark Guiliana has previously worked mostly in electronic-friendly contexts, playing hard-hitting fusion with saxophonist Donny McCaslin and a hybrid of jazz and techno with trumpeter Dave Douglas’s High Risk project, and contributing to David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar. On Jersey (Motema), his second consecutive album as a bandleader, he embraces an acoustic sound that deliberately cuts against the grain of most of these efforts; still, the music is undeniably the product of a musician who understands what computers can do with rhythm, and challenges himself to translate tricky beats with his own four limbs. The hurtling, kick-heavy beats that usher in the opening track, “Inter-Are,” suggest the stuttering grooves of experimental club music, but rather than endlessly fracturing and folding in on itself, the song opens up with a plangent melody blown by tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby, accented by pointillistic patterns from bassist Chris Morrissey and pianist Fabian Almazan. As the album progresses the musicians occasionally push toward more conventional terrain; “Big Rig Jones” is a pretty, shape-shifting swinger, while “The Mayor of Rotterdam” brings a polyrhythmic rigor to poplike tunefulness. All the same, the band clearly belongs to the drummer, who operates with fiery rhythmic agility and thrust on the airy, hovering balladry of “September” and the neck-snapping fury of “Our Lady.” As a quartet, Guiliana and his collaborators make music that’s hooky and rhythmic while also navigating like a crew of dice-’em-up chefs from Benihana—casually ripping everything apart and reassembling it along the way.   v

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