Yoshihide Otomo | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Yoshihide Otomo

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Yoshihide Otomo is adventurous even by the standards of Japan's experimental music scene, of which he's been a leading light for more than two decades. Inspired by British free-improv pioneer Derek Bailey, he studied guitar in the late 70s with Masayuki Takayanagi, who improvised with the volume and power of the most brutal heavy metal. In the mid-80s two influences from New York further altered the trajectory of his experimentation: one was saxophonist-composer John Zorn, then spending time in Japan; the other was hip-hop. With Ground Zero, the experimental rock band he led until 1998, Otomo brought together players from disparate styles a la Zorn and used turntables to insert unexpected samples and surface noise a la Christian Marclay; the combo packed noise, improvisation, and dissonant drones into one unholy barrage. But in recent years he's organized his interests differently: his new groups integrate the traditions they draw upon, instead of creating a pastiche. His Chicago engagement, a copresentation of Gene Coleman's Sound Field festival and the Asian American Jazz Festival, features his two strongest projects. The two-part program opens with the live premiere of "Anode 4," featuring Coleman's acoustic new-music group Ensemble Noamnesia, Austrian quarter-tone-trumpet player Franz Hautzinger, Japanese electronicist Sachiko M, the Chicago laptop trio TV Pow, and Otomo on guitar. On the four different versions of "Anode" that appeared on Otomo's 2001 Tzadik CD of the same name the musicians were given three rules to improvise by: they could not respond to each other's playing, chart any consistent course from intro to conclusion, or slip into any familiar melody or rhythm. The results ranged from piercing dissonance to eerie calm. The same rules will apply here. For the second set, Otomo will join his New Jazz Quintet, which mixes originals with standards by the likes of Eric Dolphy and Gerry Mulligan as well as the odd contemporary piece (e.g., Jim O'Rourke's "Eureka," which it transforms into a meditative spiritual worthy of Albert Ayler). The group breaks up its sprightly freebop with loose extended solos that rocket upward to high-register squeals. Otomo displays Takayanagi's influence in his more texture-oriented explosions, but he also can swing. The group will be joined by Sachiko M, whose high-pitched sine-wave lines on the group's album Flutter (Tzadik, 2001) created a dramatic tension with the snaking saxophone lines of Tsugami Kenta and Kikuchi Naruyoshi. Saturday, October 26, 8 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago; 312-397-4010.

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