Made to Break, Brian Case,
When: Fri., April 15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Burlington, Chicago
Made to Break isn’t the first of Ken Vandermark’s improvising groups to address the reedist’s love of funk, punk rock, and dub reggae, but it’s the first to apply that aesthetic to modular compositions that can be rearranged on the fly. On the quartet’s latest album, Before the Code (Trost), another kind of spontaneity assumes a bigger role than ever before. The group’s Austrian cofounder, Christof Kurzmann, is a wild card—while Vandermark, drummer Tim Daisy, and Dutch electric bassist Jasper Stadhouders (who’s settled into the role previously filled by Devin Hoff and Nick Macri) all improvise on the bandleader’s themes with great latitude, Kurzmann uses a computer setup not only to contribute preset parts and throw in unexpected samples but also to process the output of his bandmates and play it back in real time. Kurzmann has always done this sort of thing in Made to Break (he uses open-source freeware called “lloopp”), but I’ve never heard it work so effectively. The three extended pieces on Before the Code veer wildly among moods and attacks—on the opening piece, “Dial the Number,” for example, Vandermark’s astringently dancing clarinet tangles with Stadhouders’s knotty, abrasive playing in wide-open passages given structure by Daisy’s sharp, manic beats. Shifts between free and structured or between soft and loud arrive unexpectedly, but while the variety written into each piece is plenty of fun, Made to Break are even more exciting when they adapt to a rejiggered arrangement as they play it.
— Peter Margasak
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