ScanBake | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Free improvised music is an ongoing story of encounters between players. Over time, if a particular group works together long enough, it begins to take on an identity that extends beyond that of the individual musicians, and at some point it may even deserve a name of its own. Guitarist, violinist, and cornetist Daniel Scanlan is a member of Liof Munimula--the free trio with percussionist Michael Zerang, and shortwave-radio manipulator Don Meckley--and pianist and synth specialist Jim Baker plays with Caffeine--the improvising threesome with reedman Ken Vandermark and drummer Steve Hunt. But over the years Scanlan and Baker have consistently returned to telling the story that merges their quirky identities: ScanBake. It's a setting that draws out the best in both of them. Scanlan, perhaps best known as a quarter of the Vandermark Quartet, is a master freneticist, prone to burst out with scrabbling high-speed runs on guitar or furious flurries on fiddle. That intensity finds its way into ScanBake, but it's offset by a gentility and looseness, particularly on violin, as well as a static, less jazz- or rock-driven energy. Baker plays an analog ARP synthesizer, a beautiful new-music dinosaur with vistas of untapped potential. Conjuring vivid shapes, sine tones, caustic oscillations, liquid squirts, and other fuzzy noises, he turns this weird beast into a tool for expression as well as experimentation. On acoustic piano (and Lunar Cabaret is one of the only out-music venues in town with a good one), Baker is also highly creative, utilizing Schoenbergian dissonances and Bill Evans-esque harmonic ambiguities. With the instruments at their disposal ScanBake can change shape with exhilarating rapidity, from assaultive electric to lyrical acoustic to any combination of the two. Thus far, the duo's only recording is with Vandermark on his CD Standards (Quinnah). The same disc includes three tracks by Vandermark, drummer Hamid Drake, and bassist Kent Kessler--an outstanding trio that will be featured on this bill with ScanBake. Wednesday, 9 PM, Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln; 327-6666.

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