Gino Robair | Heaven Gallery | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Gino Robair Recommended All Ages Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Sat., May 23, 10 p.m. 2009

One positive side effect of the economic downturn is that people like percussionist GINO ROBAIR can devote more time to their art. Previously he’d been tied down by his day job as an editor at Electronic Musician magazine, which made it hard for him to play outside the Bay Area, but now that he’s been laid off he’s coming to Chicago for the first time in 19 years. Exceptionally versatile as an improviser and composer, Robair is just as persuasive devising complementary textures and out-of-the-box techniques with saxophonists like John Butcher and Anthony Braxton—he’s a virtuoso with scrapers, violin bows, and even E-Bows—as he is pounding out primal beats with Tom Waits or the avant-rock band Pink Mountain (not to be confused with Pink Mountaintops). On Blips and Ifs (Rastascan), a new recording with trumpeter Birgit Ulher, he plays nothing but circuit-bent devices and analog electronics—“voltage made audible,” as he puts it—and she largely dispenses with notes, but despite restricting themselves to the sounds of electricity, metal, and breath, they create a deep, rich tableau of layered sound. Robair wraps up his visit with a presentation of I, Norton, a collage of composed and improvised music that he’s calling an “opera,” based on a reading of the word’s etymology—it’s the plural of the Latin for “work” and thus can refer to a performance that combines several disciplines. I, Norton is inspired by the man who appointed himself emperor of the United States in 1859, who also provided the seed for characters in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Wrecker. To recruit performers for the show, Robair is holding a workshop for all types of artists (not just musicians) from 1 till 5 PM at Enemy, 1550 N. Milwaukee, third floor. Contact to sign up; details and updates are available at —Bill Meyer

Price: donation requested

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