THE THING | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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This Scandinavian improvising trio, led by reedist Mats Gustafsson, sets its originals next to tunes by free-jazz icons (Ornette Coleman, Yosuke Yamashita) and primal rock bands (the White Stripes, Lightning Bolt), but novelty isn't the point. The repertoire choices seem guided solely by a hunger for intensity and beauty--occasionally an either/or proposition but more often mutually reinforcing. Driven hard by drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and bassist Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten and guided by a raw emotional intuition, the group carries the music to one extreme dynamic position after another, from demolitions-grade explosive power to featherlight nuance. A couple years ago the Thing made what looked to be a one-off EP with Norwegian rock band Cato Salsa Experience, but the collaboration proved to have legs: on the brilliant new full-length follow-up, Two Bands and a Legend (Smalltown Superjazzz), the blended group essays both "Louie Louie" and a gorgeously meditative ballad by Blue Notes trumpeter Mongezi Feza, again joined by free-jazz immortal and regular Thing collaborator Joe McPhee. For these shows, celebrating the first anniversary of Ken Vandermark's Immediate Sound series, the Thing will play two sets a night, with McPhee sitting in on the latter. See also Saturday. a 10 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $12.

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