Frank Gratkowski | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Frank Gratkowski


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German reedist Frank Gratkowski has acknowledged Evan Parker as a key influence--but even if he hadn't, you'd figure it out pretty fast after hearing his terrific new trio album, Quicksand (Meniscus), where his jagged runs of tightly coiled notes unspool like fishing line in the mouth of a mad shark. The pianist on the record is Gratkowski's frequent cohort Georg Gräwe, but the contributions of percussionist Paul Lovens--a longtime collaborator of Parker's--really drive the similarities home. Few drummers--especially ones whose main goal is not to keep time--play more powerfully with such an expansive range of colors and textures. Whether bowing cymbals for excruciating squeaks or clattering across wood, skin, and metal at full tilt, Lovens fashions an ever-changing stream of fascinating shapes for other musicians to work around. The always precise Gräwe eases himself into the mix delicately, his beautiful lyricism arriving in carefully considered fits and starts or gently rippling lines of gnawing urgency. But Gratkowski--on clarinet, bass clarinet, and alto saxophone--leaps in and navigates the rapids like a born river rat. For this gig he'll perform with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and keyboardist Jim Baker. Wednesday, December 6, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.


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