Jim Baker, Mars Williams, Brian Sandstrom, and Steve Hunt; Great Architect | Hungry Brain | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Jim Baker, Mars Williams, Brian Sandstrom, and Steve Hunt; Great Architect Recommended Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Sun., Oct. 25, 10 p.m. 2009

Great Architect is full of punk and art-rock refugees—saxophonist Brent Bagwell, also of the trio Eastern Seaboard, is the group's de facto front man—but this young North Carolina quartet has developed a strong identity that doesn't betray any particular pedigree. Whether improvising freely or playing pieces with sketched-out themes, they're vigorously exploratory and keenly disciplined, switching from controlled nuance to wild, blown-out energy and then promptly back again. I'm already a fan of Bagwell's grainy upper-register cries, but my first exposure to the rest of the band was Great Architect's recent self-titled debut (a vinyl-only release on Kinnikinnik), and I have to say I'm mighty impressed. Together Casey Malone's jagged, spindly electric guitar and Ben Kennedy's surging, scraping quasi-microtonal arco work on violin and cello fill in the spaces between Bagwell's tart squalls and Michael Houseman's clattery, coloristic drumming—sometimes they seem to be off on their own path, generating thickets of sour harmony, crawling abrasion, or ominous drift, and sometimes they shadow Bagwell, complementing his shapes with intricately engaged accompaniment. North Carolina isn't known for nurturing adventurous improvised music, but based on this auspicious beginning, I'm hoping Great Architect gets enough support to tough it out. —Peter Margasak

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