Joel Futterman | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Some free music has the impact of a knockout punch: it swells and explodes with ballistic intensity. Joel Futterman approaches the piano with precisely this pugilistic power, but he does so with real dexterity, like a giant gently cradling a baby. You can hear this gentle thunder on his recent solo outing, Silhouettes (Progressive), where his years of merciless practicing pay off. Based in Virginia Beach, Virginia--far outside any free-music scene whatsoever--Futterman is a Chicagoan by birth, and he came up playing with bandleader Gene Shaw. Over the last two decades he has worked and recorded with some premier hornmen, including Cecil Taylor's long-term alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, Taylor's onetime trumpeter Raphe Malik, Art Ensemble of Chicago multiple reedman Joseph Jarman, and Chicago's own wackmeister Hal Russell. Naked Colours, Futterman's most recent record and his third for the Swedish label Silkheart Records, was recorded live in Berlin in 1991 with a quartet he led with Russell; at the time Russell said that Futterman was the only free pianist to ever really impress him. At the end of this month Futterman will be recording in an intriguing sextet with British bassist Barry Guy, Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, and the pair of New Orleans-based musicians he'll be playing with in this rare Chicago appearance: saxophonist Kidd Jordan and drummer Alvin Fielder. Fielder appeared on Roscoe Mitchell's classic late-60s AACM record Sounds (which Delmark has stupidly not yet reissued); over the last ten years he's been a mainstay of Silkheart's excellent catalog, appearing on records by Dennis Gonzalez, Charles Brackeen, and Ahmed Abdullah. Legendary saxophonist Jordan has hit town sporadically, usually in the company of fellow sax legend Fred Anderson, with whom he played on the big stage at last year's Chicago Jazz Festival. Jordan is as high-energy a player as Futterman, and together the trio promise an action-packed free-jazz thriller. Tuesday, 9 PM, Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln; 327-6666.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Wilderman.

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