Hearing German reedist Wolfgang Fuchs improvise is a little like watching a cat contemplate a toy, rolling it around and surveying it from every angle. As with many other European free improvisers, the timbre, color, and attack of Fuchs's sopranino saxophone and bass and contrabass clarinets are at least as important as melody or structure, if not more so. On his most recent recording, Bits & Pieces (FMP), strange, gurgling sounds develop slowly and organically, taking all sorts of unexpected and sometimes thrilling turns. Drones dip gracefully into lower-register moans; raspy, high-pitched cries loop, swirl, hiccup, and explode; stacatto pops elongate into serene trills. For his Chicago debut Fuchs will play three distinct sets. After a solo turn, he'll perform with Chicagoans Jim Baker (synthesizer), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Michael Zerang (percussion), Ken Vandermark (reeds), and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello); this ad hoc chamber group might recall the spare but sumptuous beauty of Fuchs's King Ubu Orchestru, an ensemble that demonstrates both his keen conceptualism and his sensitivity to other players. The evening will conclude with a trio featuring bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Steve Hunt, which promises to bring out Fuchs's rarely heard muscularity. Wednesday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo by Caroline Forbes.