When: Thu., July 12, 7:30 p.m. 2012
Oakland composer Andrew Weathers is an accomplished improviser, but Guilford County Songs, the most recent album by the ensemble he leads, contains only a trace of nonidiomatic free improvisation—take that away, along with the extended instrumental passages, and it would sound a lot like the work of a folk band. Weathers is a native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and he's clearly influenced by southern rural music—on Guilford County Songs he sings and plays banjo, harmonica, and guitar—but his group's beautiful acoustic arrangements, which also include cello and saxophones, experiments with and extrapolates from those rustic sounds to create something simultaneously warmly familiar and unlike anything I've ever heard. A few of its nine pieces, like album opener "Anchor," have raw, keening vocal melodies that sound like a cross between old-timey ballads and field hollers, but most of the tracks are instrumental, their foregrounds occupied with moody, coloristic harmonica that collides and coalesces with hypnotic guitar and abstract bowed cello. You can occasionally pinpoint an avant-garde influence—post-Derek Bailey guitar tangles, for instance, or passages that suggest a string band stealing ideas from Steve Reich—but the music always sounds wholly original. Weathers performs with a trio here, rather than with the quartet from the album. —Peter Margasak See also Sunday and Monday. Jack the Dog headlines.