Tri-Dim | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Any improvising musician, no matter how creative, inevitably winds up reusing favorite licks and techniques, and the members of Tri-Dim--Swedish guitarist David Stackenas and two Norwegians, reedist Hakon Kornstad and percussionist Ingar Zach--are no exception. That said, it's remarkable how different the group's most recent album, 2 of 2 (Sofa, 2002), is from its 2000 debut, Tri-Dimprovisations (BP). In the earlier work fragments of crackling, concentrated energy are held at a distance from one another by the mutually repelling forces generated by the splintery, scratchy playing. But while the 18-minute opening track from 2 of 2 has its share of choppy bits, the piece is bound together by a newfound lyricism. Kornstad probably deserves a lot of the credit for this: on his own recordings (including Schlinger, a new duet work with drummer Paal Nilssen-Love on the Smalltown Supersound label), he's a dynamite thematic improviser a la Ken Vandermark with a comparably extroverted tone. While he doesn't impose long-form structural ideas on Tri-Dim, his playing gives the new work a center while Stackenas and Zach dash off terse phrases and coloristic splashes around him. The record demonstrates the musicians' interest in exploring new contexts (there are two rigorous live pieces recorded with the great British bassist Barry Guy and an electronics-laden Jim O'Rourke remix of some previously unreleased material), and they'll play in a variety of settings during their stay in Chicago this week. As a trio: Saturday, December 13, 2 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630. Playing three solo sets: Saturday, December 13, 9 PM, Candlestick Maker, 4432 N. Kedzie; 773-463-0158. With reedist Ken Vandermark and bassist Nate McBride: Wednesday, December 17, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. In various duo and trio combinations with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, percussionist Michael Zerang, and reedist Michael Colligan: Thursday, December 18, 9:45 PM, 3030, 3030 W. Cortland; 773-862-3616.

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