Tobias Delius, Kent Kessler, and Michael Zerang | Elastic | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Tobias Delius, Kent Kessler, and Michael Zerang All Ages Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Thu., Nov. 19, 10 p.m. 2009

It's been eight years since Berlin-based tenor saxophonist Tobias Delius has released a recording as a bandleader—six if you consider him coleader of the collective session Apa Ini (Data)—and that's a damn shame. (At present he has an album of his own in the can but no label lined up.) A longtime member of Amsterdam's ICP Orchestra, Delius has one of the most beautiful and elastic horn sounds in jazz: he shares the breathy, earthy warmth of swing-era tenor man Ben Webster, but transforms it with jagged contemporary phrasing. No matter what configuration of players he ends up part of, he seems to make it sound better. This past summer in Kongsberg, Norway, he floored me in a powerhouse improvising quartet with drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and bassist Johan Berthling, teasing out lusty, sanguine melodies even as he kept pace with the screaming tumult of the set. He also sounds great on this summer's First Reason (Clean Feed), a superb album by German drummer Christian Lillinger—his meaty clarinet and tenor lines slalom forcefully through the rhythm section's dense, frantic matrix of notes without losing a bit of their emotional depth along the way. On this rare visit to Chicago, Delius plays four shows with four ad hoc lineups of top-shelf local talent. Tonight he's joined by bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Michael Zerang. Delius also plays Saturday at Heaven Gallery, Sunday at Hungry Brain, and Monday at Skylark. —Peter Margasak

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