Sonic Liberation 8 | Hungry Brain | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Sonic Liberation 8 Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Sat., Sept. 24, 8:30 p.m. 2016

For the past 15 years, Philadelphia percussionist Kevin Diehl has pursued a singular vision, using his group Sonic Liberation 8 (formerly Sonic Liberation Front) to experiment in wedding free jazz with the bata drumming that’s used in Santeria rituals in Puerto Rico and Cuba. This hybrid can be problematic, because the rich polyrhythms of the drumming stick to a fixed tempo that lacks the elasticity of free jazz, where the wild horn playing breaks free of rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic restrictions. The complexity of the rhythms also requires Diehl’s front-line musicians to get intimate enough with the grooves to be seriously locked in; former member Julian Presley, a dyed-in-the-wool hard bopper, resisted the bata patterns, and the results fell flat. Fortunately the ensemble is at its best on the new Bombogenic (High Two), which raises the stakes by folding a string quartet into the arrangements and enlisting superb alto saxophonist Oliver Lake, who unleashes one tart, exciting solo after another and even brings a handful of compositions to the table. The string quartet adds an air of solemnity and gives extra contrapuntal heft to the horns—though they do get featured on a beguiling spin through Erik Satie’s “Gnossienne.” Bassist Matt Engle functions like a joint connecting the percussionists (Diehl, Nichola Rivera, Tom Lowery, and Ron Howerton) and the horn players (Lake, reedist Elliot Levin, and bass clarinetist Mike Watson). The touring lineup includes the four-strong percussion section from Bombogenic, along with Engle, Levin, bass clarinetist Daniel Peterson, and violist Veronica Jurkiewiecz, who leads the string quartet on the album.

Peter Margasak

Price: $10

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