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Mikolaj Trzaska/ Devin Hoff/ Michael Zerang: Sleepless In Chicago

John Sharpe By

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With Poland proving such a welcoming venue for so many of Chicago's finest, it's no surprise to see a little quid pro quo from time to time. Reedman Mikolaj Trzaska, one of his country's most forward thinking players, has collaborated with various visiting Americans, most notably Joe McPhee and Ken Vandermark, but it is as a member of the latter's Resonance Ensemble that he may be best known. The two side long cuts on the LP Sleepless In Chicago each stem from a run of Resonance Ensemble concerts in the Windy City in March 2011 and August 2012, which also included space for smaller subsets of the whole unit.

Completing the trio alongside Trzaska are two stalwarts of the home town scene: Michael Zerang on drums and Devin Hoff on bass. Zerang constituted one of the dual powerhouses for Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet since its inception in 1997, while Hoff brought an avant rock and jazz background to the Nels Cline Singers and currently features in Vandermark's Made To Break quartet. On his husky toned alto saxophone Trzaska mixes staccato phrases and melodies with expressive textures beyond notation to forge an emotionally charged voice. Together they create an egalitarian group music founded on unbridled interaction.

Named after the nightspots in which they were recorded, each piece goes through a variety of free jazz moods. "Elastic" begins with great yearning waves of sound from the Pole. Fast walking bass and a busy pulse of drum rolls and sizzling cymbals suggest an urgency, as if to make an immediate impression (and the audience noise audible in the quiet parts indicates that might indeed have been necessary). Skylark more resembles the relaxed exchanges of Trzaska's excellent Riverloam Trio (NoBusiness, 2012), as the saxophonist's repeated opening motif slides into a series of overblown trills, over a poised but knotty backing. At 39-minutes the program both showcases a fertile vehicle for Trzaska in the future and leaves the listener wanting more.


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