Percussionist Paul Lytton usually comes packaged with two of his fellow pillars of European improvised music, saxophonist Evan Parker and bassist Barry Guy, but this week Chicagoans will get several opportunities to hear him in new contexts. The British-born Lytton (who now lives in Germany) first worked with Parker in 1969, in a duo that produced discordant, bone-rattling music. Although they performed occasionally with Guy in the 70s, in the bassist's London Jazz Composers Orchestra big band (which they continue to be a part of), it wasn't until the early 80s that the three of them solidified into a trio. Subsequent recordings have chronicled a powerhouse unit that loves to trip itself up. On the group's At the Vortex (Emanem), from 1996, Lytton contributes a frenetic sprawl of metallic clangs, crashes, thwacks, and patter, shifting from violent to delicate in a flash and perpetually driving the others into unexpected territory. A lazy musician could be trampled in seconds, and even the good ones must play at peak power just to keep pace--so it should be interesting to see how the raft of Chicagoans scheduled to perform with him this week holds up. Lytton's first appearance, at the Chicago Cultural Center, kicks off an ambitious new new-music series there; it's free, and pits him against cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and pianist Jim Baker. That's Saturday at 3 PM at the Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630. Monday at 9:30 PM Lytton's joined by bassist Kent Kessler and trombonist Jeb Bishop at the Nervous Center, 4612 N. Lincoln; 773-728-5010. And on Wednesday at 9:30 PM he'll go head-to-head with reedists Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams and percussionist Hamid Drake at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Anette Berns.