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Josh Abrams, Axel Dorner, Guillermo Gregorio & Jeff Parker

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When musicians of discipline and intelligence get together, disparate elements can be fused into a marvelous equilibrium. This quartet's debut CD, Cipher (Delmark, 2003), works because the players, who were born on three continents and range in age from 30 to 62, draw selectively from their respective stylistic bags. While bassist Abrams and guitarist Parker thrive in groove-oriented settings, trumpeter Dorner is a laptop-carrying member of the international electroacoustic improv underground, and reedist Gregorio's CV includes musique concrete and performance art. The music they make together is a hybrid of chamber music and jazz in which every gesture is made with scrupulous care. No single player or idiom dominates the music; instead, every composition represents an isometric balance of different forces. Thus the swinging pulse of Dorner's "Background Beneath" disappears whenever the horns state the boppish theme; the stately melody of Abrams's "Calamities Break" unravels into abrasive textural explorations, then reconstitutes itself; and Gregorio's "Space Modulator" flips between brief but elaborate group statements and winding solo turns. The group's restraint is also manifest in free improvisations like "Mental Politician" and "No Theory," which unfold with an understated sense of drama. Because Dorner lives in Germany, the quartet doesn't get to play together very often; this is their first local gig since they recorded together in September 2002. It's free. Thursday, April 8, 7 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630.

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

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