Joshua Abrams Quartet Member Picks Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Sat., June 8, 9:30 p.m. 2013

Bassist Joshua Abrams is an indispensable bedrock presence in the Chicago free-jazz and improvised-music scene, lending his unerring time sense, harmonic finesse, and knowledge of jazz history to countless bands. Lately his main project as a leader has been the wonderful Natural Information Society, a shape-shifting collective whose devotion to trance grooves and modal improvisation accommodates players from outside the jazz world, but his terrific new album, Unknown Known (Rogue Art), proves that he’s just as capable at the helm of a group playing a blend of postbop and free jazz. He’s joined by some of his most trusted collaborators—reedist David Boykin, vibist Jason Adasiewicz, and drummer Frank Rosaly—and the record’s six compositions afford them great latitude. There are occasional extended solos, but more prevalent is biting, electric improvisation involving different combinations of players. On the title track Abrams’s astringent, furious arco pairs nicely with Boykin’s tense, coiled tenor squalling, and then the gentle return of the rest of the group directs the two of them toward a somber unison recapitulation of the theme. The epic ballad “Boom Goes the Moon” begins with feverish collective rustling and rumbling before morphing suddenly into a lovely melody, with Adasiewicz playing the changes; Boykin unfurls a devastating, quiet long tone, then delivers one of the album’s most beautiful, lyrical solos. The reedist is sometimes mixed too low, but he’s star of the album—Abrams makes his leadership feel almost invisible, so that his directives seem spontaneous and natural. I can’t think of much higher praise. —Peter Margasak

Price: $10, $8 in advance

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