Susie Ibarra Trio | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Susie Ibarra Trio

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SUSIE IBARRA TRIO

Last year drummer Susie Ibarra left the David S. Ware Quartet, the group with which she first stormed onto the free-jazz scene. In the quartet and in various settings with her husband, tenor saxophonist Assif Tsahar, she's done her mentor Milford Graves proud, more than holding her own in the soul-searing sax workouts and kinetic group interplay that's earned the tag "ecstatic jazz." But for her debut as a bandleader, Radiance (Hopscotch), she's given herself a little more elbow room, recruiting violinist Charles Burnham--a member of the String Trio of New York and an essential ingredient of James "Blood" Ulmer's classic Odyssey--and pianist Cooper-Moore, a regular along with Ibarra in William Parker's In Order to Survive group. A sense of calm and careful introspection pervades her lovely writing, which mixes measured, hypnotic grooves, folky melodic motifs, and an elastic improvisational sensibility, usually favoring concision over discord. On a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Up From the Skies," for instance, Burnham uses a wah-wah pedal to squeeze out pearls of melody, which Ibarra polishes with a quiet stream of cymbal patter, shell rattling, and soft gong ringing. While there are some of the lightning-quick moves usually associated with pure improv--the brief "A Glimpse" is constructed of phrases that dart like frightened mice--for the most part the group sticks to finely detailed embroidery of Ibarra's themes. In addition to piano Cooper-Moore also plays harp and diddley bow, and his contributions do the most to bring the folk element to the surface--his harp on "Magandang Araw" in particular sounds a bit like an African thumb piano. Though I've heard her in many other contexts, I came away feeling like this album had opened a whole new door on Ibarra's big imagination; I'm looking forward to learning what else is in there. Thursday, April 6, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.

Peter Margasak

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