Keefe Jackson, Jason Stein, Jeff Kimmel, and Brian Labycz; Thollem McDonas & Jason Stein | Elastic | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Keefe Jackson, Jason Stein, Jeff Kimmel, and Brian Labycz; Thollem McDonas & Jason Stein All Ages Soundboard

When: Fri., March 25, 9:30 p.m. 2011

I've only heard a couple of recordings by Bay Area pianist Thollem McDonas—he's made nearly 20 in the past five years—but that's enough to convince me of his nonchalant range. McDonas is a free improviser who pairs a strong understanding of classical music with a willingness to collaborate with indie-rock freaks (he's a member of the Naked Future with Old Time Relijun's Arrington de Dionyso) or sing along with his playing. On his 2008 solo album, Racing the Sun Chasing the Sun (Creative Sources), he weaves bits of two separate concerts together into a cogent whole, and the result is a relentless zigzag of rhythms, densities, and moods that ranges from kinetic, tightly wound flurries to calm, meditative queries. More recently he paired up with virtuosic Italian bassist and contemporary classical composer Stefano Scodanibbio for On Debussy's Piano And . . . (Die Schachtel), a series of "structured improvisations" recorded on the piano Debussy owned for the last 14 years of his life. On that album too, McDonas's playing doesn't privilege any particular style, but his breathless curiosity is audible. He plays in a duo with local bass clarinetist Jason Stein tonight; a quartet of Stein, Keefe Jackson, Jeff Kimmel, and Brian Labycz headlines. —Peter Margasak

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