AMN Reviews: Thinking Plague – Hoping Against Hope (2017; Cuneiform Records)

Thinking Plague is the quintessential progressive rock band. This means that they do not sound similar to just about any other outfit that falls under that loose moniker. With each release, they move even further from their initial sound, which had a flavor not unlike that of the Art Bears. Here, on their eighth album in 35 years, group leader and guitarist Mike Johnson is joined by longtime collaborators Mark Harris on sax and clarinets, and Dave Willey on bass and accordion. Rounding out the group on this go-around are vocalist Elaine di Falco, drummer Robin Chestnut, and guitarist Bill Pohl.

Regardless of lineup, what makes Thinking Plague tick is Johnson’s compositions. Writing for the first time for two guitarists, he juxtaposed his own angular style with occasional rock pyrotechnics from Pohl. But overall, the tracks on Hoping Against Hope are dense, knotty, contrapuntal offerings. Not exactly chamber rock, they borrow from jazz but fall outside of that genre. Johnson’s lines are tight and intertwined, as he exhibits control over each member without making their recitations appear rote. They pull apart and come together with ease, and even feature a few fleeting free-form moments.

Notably, the phrasings are so odd as times that the contributions of the individual instruments in isolation can sound outright alien. This is particularly the case with di Falco’s vocals, swooping and diving through registers. Nonetheless, this is not necessarily any different from how Johnson wrote for his other vocalists.

It would be hard to point to any one particular track of the six on this album as necessarily standing out amongst the rest. Compositionally, Hoping Against Hope holds together as a unit. There is so much intellectually-challenging content to unpack, that I could probably come back in a few years and write a totally different review. Not only is this a superb album, it may very well be the best album from a group that has made a number of superb albums. Bravo.

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AMN Reviews: Jaimie Branch – Fly or Die (2017; International Anthem)

Trumpeter Jaimie Branch is well-known within the New York and Chicago creative music scenes as a collaborator. Her efforts include sessions with William Parker, Matana Roberts, Jason Ajemian, and many others. On this, her debut recording as a leader, she provides 35 minutes of improvisation, some free, some not. She teams with Tomeka Reid on cello, Ajemian on bass, Chad Taylor on drums, with guests Matt Schneider on guitar, as well as Ben Lamar Gay and Josh Berman on cornet.

In addition to landing in multiple places on the composed-to-unstructured spectrum, Branch’s works also span various levels of atmospherics. As an example, the aptly-titled theme 002 is a catchy, bass-driven vamp with Branch providing a distinct melody. On the other hand, leaves of glass features a pre-conceived, echoing motif followed by the horn players, leaving space between notes at first but then is filled with cello and bass explorations. That track is followed by the storm, which features generous portions of glissando and hushed extemporization. And to drive home the point of how diverse Branch’s approach can be, the album kicks off with a 15-second extended technique trumpet piece, not unlike what one might expect from Nate Wooley.

Fly of Die has a live-in-the-studio feel lending it a sense of urgency and integrity. Ultimately, the album is an evolution of sorts, from structure to freedom, then back to structure. Branch and her compatriots navigate this shifting landscape with skill and ease, of course.

Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter

English: John Zorn Français : John Zorn

Source: Downtown Music Gallery.

John Zorn’s Final Book of Angels: Volume 31: Brian Marsella Trio & Complete ‘Book of Angels’ Sale! JR3: Olaf Rupp / Rudi Mahall / Jan Roder! Thollem McDonas & Rob Mazurek! Dave PEK’s Chicxulub Trio! New from Sunnyside: Mike McGinnis / Art Lande / Steve Swallow! Kurt Rosenwinkel & Eric Clapton! Rebecca Martin & Guillermo Klein! Enrico Pieranunzi & Bruno Canino!

Plus Archival Discs from Miles Davis Sextet – Fillmore West, 1970! Bill Evans / Scott LaFaro / Paul Motian Trio 1960! Albert King & Dickie Betts! Rare LPs from Don Cherry / Karl Berger Quartet – 1967! Pierre Henry’s ‘Maléfices’! Bert Jansch! Ken Ikeda & David Toop! More and more!

***********

The FREE DMG Weekly New Music In-Store Series Continues on Sundays with:

Sunday, April 23rd:
6pm: J. A. GRANELLI & MR. LUCKY TRIO with: J.A GRANELLI – Piccolo Bass, Lap Steel Guitar / NATE SHAW – Keyboards / OWEN HOWARD – Drums

Sunday, April 30th:
6pm: NO SIGNAL: AARON NOVIK & JEREMIAH CYMERMAN – Clarinets and AVA MENDOZA & BRANDON SEABROOK – Guitars!
&pm: GUILLERMO GREGORIO / VINCENT CHANCEY / BRANDON LOPEZ –
Clarinet / French Horn / ContraBass

Sunday, May 7th:
6pm; BEN STAPP & ELIJAH SHIFFER – Tuba and Sax & Clarinet
7pm: CATHERINE SIKORA & BRIAN CHASE – Tenor Sax and Drums

Sunday, May 14th:
6pm: ALEC HARPER & TYLER GILMORE

Coming to the Vortex Jazz Club

English: Pierre Favre Deutsch: Pierre Favre

Source: London’s Vortex Jazz Club.

SAT 22 APRIL 2017
INTAKT RECORDS FESTIVAL
INTAKT RECORDS FESTIVAL DAY 7: INGRID LAUBROCK’S SLEEPTHIEF // SARAH BUECHI’S SHADOW GARDEN
The seventh day of the Intakt Records Festival continues with another inspiring double bill. Ingrid Laubrock’s Sleepthief begins, followed by Sarah Buechi’s Shadow Garden.
Time: 8 – 11PM

SUN 23 APRIL 2017
INTAKT RECORDS FESTIVAL
INTAKT RECORDS DAY 8: CHRISTOPH IRNIGER PILGRIM // AKI TAKASE & INGRID LAUBROCK
The eighth day of the Intakt Records Festival continues with another exciting double bill. Christoph Irniger Pilgrim begins, folowed by Aki Takase & Ingrid Laubrock
Time: 7.30 – 10PM

MON 24 APRIL 2017
INTAKT RECORDS FESTIVAL
INTAKT RECORDS FESTIVAL DAY 9: STEFAN AEBY TRIO // AKI TAKASE & RUDI MAHALL
The eighth day of the Intakt Records Festival continues with another exciting double bill. Stefan Aeby Trio begin, folowed by Aki Takase & Rudi Mahall
Time: 8 – 11PM

TUE 25 APRIL 2017
INTAKT RECORDS FESTIVAL
INTAKT RECORDS FESTIVAL DAY 10: FLORIAN EGLI WEIRD BEARD // STEVE BERESFORD & JULIAN SARTORIUS
The tenth day of the Intakt Records Festival continues with another exciting double bill. Florian Egli Weird Beard, followed by Steve Beresford & Julian Sartorius FLORIAN EGLI WEIRD BEARD Florian Egli: Saxophone…
Time: 8 – 11PM

WED 26 APRIL 2017
INTAKT RECORDS FESTIVAL
INTAKT RECORDS FESTIVAL DAY 11: SYLVIE COURVOISIER & MARK FELDMAN // DRUMSIGHTS
The eleventh day of the Intakt Records Festival continues with another exciting double bill Sylvie Courvoisier (piano) & Mark Feldman (violin), followed by Pierre Favre Drumsights. SYLVIE COURVOISIER – MARK…
Time: 8 – 11PM

THU 27 APRIL 2017
INTAKT RECORDS FESTIVAL
INTAKT RECORDS FESTIVAL DAY 12: PIERRE FAVRE // SYLVIE COURVOISIER, MARK FELDMAN, EVAN PARKER
The last day of the Intakt Records Festival continues with another exciting double bill. Pierre Favre folowed by Sylvie Courvoisier (piano), Mark Feldman (violin), Evan Parker (saxophone). Pierre Favre (solo)…
Time: 7 – 11PM

FRI 28 APRIL 2017
KEITH TIPPETT AND LOUIS MOHOLO-MOHOLO: TWO COMRADES
Keith Tippett – piano Louis Moholo-Moholo – drums AT LAST! For the first time in over 30 years these two giants perform as a duo on a British stage! Playing…
Time: 8 – 11PM

Chicago Scene: April 23-29, 2017

Fred Lonberg-Holm in 2002

This is a weekly overview live avant performances in the Chicago area. Contact us if you’d like your shows listed.

Sunday, April 23rd 2017

3:00PM at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E Chicago, 312.280.2660 (wheelchair-accessible)
Whisper(s)
Matthew Duvall + Guests — music by Erik Satie, Morton Feldman, John Luther Adams, Matthew Burtner, Yu-Hui Chang, Marta Ptaszynska

9:00PM at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W Belmont ($10 suggested donation) (wheelchair-accessible)
Darren Johnston, Tim Daisy
J@K@L : Keefe Jackson, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Julian Kirchner

Monday, April 24th 2017

7:00PM at Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N Ravenswood, 773.769.1069
Charles Rumback, Jim Baker, John Tate, Greg Ward

9:00PM at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont, 773.281.4444 (wheelchair-accessible)
Extraordinary Popular Delusions : Mars Williams, Brian Sandstrom, Steve Hunt

Tuesday, April 25th 2017

8:00PM at Digital Art Demo Space, 2515 S Archer ($5)
TALsounds
Wei Zhongle
ADT

8:30PM at Elastic, 3429 W Diversey, #208, 773.772.3616 ($10)
Cory Smythe Solo
Mabel Kwan Solo

Friday, April 28th 2017

7:30PM at PianoForte , 1335 S Michigan, 312.291.0291 ($20-$10)
Memoria Nova Ensemble : Shanna Gutierrez, Tara Lynn Ramsey, Andrew Rosenblum — music by Ralph Shapey, Henry Cowell, Guillaume Dufay, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Bohuslav Martin&uring

9:00PM at Elastic, 3429 W Diversey, #208, 773.772.3616 ($10)
Aerial Drones
Jack Wright’s Roughhousing, with Evan Lipson, Zachary Darrup, special guest Aaron Zarzutzki

Saturday, April 29th 2017

7:30PM at the Rockefeller Chapel, 5850 S Woodlawn, 773.702.2100 ($35-$20)
Spektral Quartet and Third Coast Percussion — music by Augusta Read Thomas

For more information, such as directions, as well as upcoming performances, see:

http://now-is.org/, http://www.ratchetmusic.com, http://www.mcachicago.org, http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_culturalcenterschedule.html, http://www.skylarkchicago.com, http://www.hideoutchicago.com, http://www.elasticrevolution.com, http://www.myopicbookstore.com/music.html, http://www.lampo.org, http://dalniente.com, http://iceorg.org/events/category/chicago, http://www.emptybottle.com/

Bang on a Can at 30 in NY

Source: The New York Times.

When the composers’ collective Bang on a Can alighted on the scene 30 years ago, one of its defining qualities was volume. Amplified to exuberant rock-music levels, works by its founding members, David Lang, Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon, typically featured a novel mix of electric guitars and traditional orchestral instruments. So it was a funny coincidence that these composers’ microphones malfunctioned at the start of an onstage discussion at Zankel Hall on Wednesday.