Michael Zerang With Fred Lonberg-Holm and Michael Colligan | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Michael Zerang With Fred Lonberg-Holm and Michael Colligan

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I can't think of a more misleading title than "Illusion of Progress," which is what local percussionist Michael Zerang and German reedist Peter Brotzmann decided to call the half-hour epic that opens their recent duo disc, Live in Beirut (Al Maslakh). Not only does the piece cover a lot of ground, ranging in mood from unbridled ferocity to dignified tenderness, but it also shows how far Zerang has come in his long career--this month he celebrates 30 years as a performer and improviser, and in that time he's refined his approach repeatedly. In days gone by he's preferred an elaborate, skittery style played on an enormous array of instruments and frequently piled his drum set with blocks, bells, gongs, bowls, and bits of cloth. But for the Beirut date he uses only a small trap kit and a goblet-shaped hand drum called a darbuka--all he needs to tackle everything from regal Middle Eastern processionals to jagged arrhythmic tangles. At a recent local appearance with the French improvising duo of Jean-Luc Guionnet and David Chiesa, he even abandoned the trap kit, paring down to just two drums and focusing on sustained tones rather than impacts--he played with friction mallets or vibrators more often than sticks. Zerang has spent a lot of time lately in Europe and Lebanon, but he's taking advantage of a long stretch at home to play a series of five concerts this month, of which this is the first. He'll be joined by reedist Michael Colligan and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, both members of the local improvising quartet Pillow, which mixes melancholy lyricism with coarse textures on the recent Pillow Plays Brotzmann (Bottrop-Boy). Colligan's weapons of choice in that group include a block of dry ice "played" with heated metal objects to create startling clatters and shrieks, and for this show he'll bring that setup and a couple other instruments of his own devising. The trio of Eric Leonardson, Carol Genetti, and Richard Curtis opens. Thu 6/8, 9 PM, Enemy, 1550 N. Milwaukee (third floor), 312-493-3657, $5 suggested donation. All ages.

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