howard reich chicago tribune review of 1 june constellation concert

The pairing of multi-instrumentalists Peter Brotzmann and Joe McPhee drew a nearly capacity audience to the larger of two concert rooms at Constellation, drummer-impresario Mike Reed's suddenly indispensable new venue on North Western Avenue (in the home of the former Viaduct Theater). That this many attentive listeners turned out Saturday night to hear two such fiercely committed iconoclasts said a great deal about this city's appetite for the unconventional.

Between them, Brotzmann and McPhee – who over the years have collaborated with many Chicago innovators – play practically anything with a mouthpiece, so a joint performance conjures as many sounds and colors as one might expect from any dozen musicians. Yet the wonder of their opening set owed not simply to the range of instruments they used but to the ingenuity with which they responded to one another.

No musical score, in other words, could have come close to detailing the profusion of notes they delivered in their first five minutes, let alone during the entirety of their oft-combustive duets. Nor could these musicians possibly have scripted even the general contours of their improvisations – the music was too free-wheeling, mercurial, volatile and abruptly unpredictable for that.

The duo thrived because, at their core, Brotzmann and McPhee brought very different sensibilities to the stage, Brotzmann's larger-than-life sound and oft-explosive manner counterbalanced by McPhee's more lyrical approach and subtle tonal palette.

Brotzmann opened the evening with wide-open horn calls on alto saxophone, his tone characteristically huge and grainy, his rhythms surging with energy. McPhee soon responded via flurries of notes on pocket trumpet, some of his ideas expressed in precisely articulated pitches, others simply with the rush of air through his horn.

Before long, the musicians were adding a range of instruments to the mix, McPhee's plaintive lines on tenor saxophone answered by Brotzmann's eruptions on tenor, alto, clarinet and what-not. Phrases collided and dovetailed; silences emerged seemingly out of nowhere; dissonance turned to harmony and back; music sped up, slowed down and trailed off into the ether. Through it all, these musicians consistently built an unmistakable structure for these instantly created compositions, each piece proceeding to its logical conclusion.

Their free-ranging duets recalled another indelible pairing: Fred Anderson and Kidd Jordan at the shuttered Velvet Lounge. Like those leonine tenor men, Brotzmann and McPhee found inspiration in each other's sound and methods, speaking a musical language of their own making.



31 V austin, waller creek auditorium, 710 e. 41st st.

01 VI chicago, constellation, 3111 n. western ave.

03 VI orlando, timucua white house, 2000 s. summerlin st.

04 VI jacksonville, karpeles manuscript library museum, 101 w. 1st st.

05 VI philadelphia, philadelphia art alliance, 251 s. 18th st.

07 VI peterborough, the thing in the spring, town hall

08 VI washington dc, union arts and manufacturing, 411 new york ave ne

10 VI montreal, suoni per il popolo, 4848 saint-laurent

12 VI buffalo, hallwalls, 341 delaware ave.


seriously happening sets on dublab by joshua abrams natural information society (2012 west coast 'cairo gang' line-up) & by cairo gang ('natural information society' line-up).  both available as podcasts on i-tunes, search dublab.


to eremite's international customers:  as you may know the u.s. postal service has rather drastically increased its international shipping rates (see NPR story).  the cost of shipping a single CD internationally has gone from $6 to nearly $13.  the shipping settings at are adjusted to reflect the new rates however due to limitations in the paypal shipping calculator the shipping cost charged for certain multi-item combinations can be crazily inaccurate.  eremite encourages multi-item buyers to contact the label directly via the webmail form to adjust -down- (hopefully) your shipping costs.  it's most efficient if you do this after you place your order (no worries you will hear back from me).  FYI it's now way more cost effective to order two or more CDs than it is to order a single title.  big thanks for your understanding, let's not get too discouraged.


check out the joshua abrams natural information society exclusive live track at the wire magazine.