Chicago Underground Trio

Chronicle

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Into their second decade as a group, the Chicago Underground Trio welcome new bassist Jason Ajemian, further expand their improvised music universe, and offer this in-concert set at the German Cultural Center. The performance is split into three continuous live segments, incorporating leader Rob Mazurek's cornet and electronics, drummer/percussionist Chad Taylor and Ajemian. As Chicagoans you'd expect their music to be heavily influenced by the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and it is. There's a distinct African influence due to Taylor's liberal use of tom toms, marimba and mbira, while Mazurek's atmospheric, at times spooky or pulse generated electronics adds dramatic contrast. Null space is rarely employed, but any two members may play until the third glides in. The "first set" comprises "Initiation," which is a long pulsing and probing bass solo, segueing seamlessly into "Resistance," fired by busted-out hard bop drumming, and Mazurek's Lester Bowie-ish roaring and bleating horn. The near 30 minute "Power" is an exercise in different dimensions of disparate elements cut-and-pasted, as you hear outer space sounds, Don Cherry influenced dancing muted cornet, tinkling, and dense walls of reverberation. The second segment leads with "Crisis," and is as the title suggests, a standalone free and loose embroidered quilt-work of contradictory elements that leap spastically. The concluding piece "Transcendence" is accented by Taylor's scattershot marimba, encoded by electronics and bass, and ends with Mazurek leading a hard driven modal waltz. At times deadpan, often spirited, spiritual and symmetrical with plenty of ideas that work well, the group succeeds in clearly bringing its point across, and those who enjoy this type of pure improvising should find it intriguing. [A DVD of this performance is also available.]

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