The Few | Constellation | Experimental | Chicago Reader

The Few 18+ Soundboard Recommended Image

When: Sat., Dec. 17, 8:30 p.m. 2016

For this listener, free improvisation is rarely enough on its own unless some sort of strategy or organizational focus is guiding a performance. But while I don’t know what, if anything, the members of the Few—the trio of guitarist Steve Marquette, violinist Macie Stewart, and bassist Charlie Kirchen—talked about before they started, or if there’s much planning behind their fully improvised performances, the music on their superb debut album, Fragments of a Luxury Vessel (Two Cities), bobs and weaves with purpose. The Few only started playing together in April 2015—the members participated in Constellation’s 3-on-3 series, in which improvisers are grouped together for the first time—but on the record’s four tracks the players effortlessly find rhythmic and/or melodic figures to hook into and extend. Each performance wends through passages as spiky and splintery as they are tender and lyric, and for such a young group of players the interplay is impressive. Stewart, who’s best known for playing in rock bands Homme and Marrow, had never improvised prior to this project, but she’s taken to the practice beautifully, complementing her graceful, marbled lines with crystalline wordless vocals marked by warmth and a sense of exploration. On the album’s closing track, “Variations on the ‘Truth Is Marching In,’” Marquette quotes from the referenced Albert Ayler tune, even though his partners had never heard it. Their instincts, however, tease out the track’s connections to country music that I’d never noticed. Experiencing that kind of fresh perspective is special.

Peter Margasak

Price: $10

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