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Sunday, September 9, 2018

J@K@L (Keefe Jackson, Julian Kirshner, Fred Lonberg-Holm) - After A Few Days (Jaki Records, 2018) ****

By Nick Metzger

After issuing a pair of outstanding tapes in 2015 and 2016 the sax/cello/drums power trio of Keefe Jackson, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Julien Kirshner reunited last year for a spirited session of fiery free improv at the Windy City’s own Hungry Brain venue. Fortunately for those of us not present that night, the performance has been released by Jaki Records as After A Few Days. For anyone unfamiliar with the trio, Keefe Jackson is a prolific player in the Chicago scene, collaborating with the likes of Jason Stein, Josh Berman, and the Urge Trio (with Tomeika Reid and Cristoph Erb). Former Chicago resident Lonberg-Holm is a veteran player in the international scene; he’s a member of the Vandermark 5 and of Peter Brotzmann’s Chicago Tentet among his many other endeavors and is likely well known to the readers of this blog. Grounding the trio is the young percussionist Julian Kirshner, whose list of collaborators includes Sam Weinberg and Gerrit Hatcher (with whom he released the terrific Five Percent Tint last year).

 A Silt of Atoms begins with a rush of drums and strings, over which Jackson’s tenor stutters and growls. This action segues into rapid trills, staccato honking, and overdriven cello scrapings atop the rumbling percussion. Lonberg-Holm plays mounting lines, gruffly bowing out sinewy forms and glissando. Kirshner’s percussion is propulsive and exciting; he hangs a loose fragmented structure and adorns it with rapid snare roll clusters. Lonberg-Holm dishes a drone of octave pedal treated bowing and the drums quicken, Kirshner’s energetic rolls and washes of cymbal hiss drive the motion forward. Jackson utilizes a very reedy tone on both tenor and soprano and his powerful delivery is at the same time very controlled. Lonberg-Holm mixes it up with some traditional cello sounds now and again, but always greatly appreciated is the broad palette of sounds he brings to a group setting. Here we get some heavily chuffed bowing, pizzicato rhythm playing, effects-heavy free noise, and even some electric tenor guitar. All of this really thickens up the improvisations, allowing the sax and drums to explore more subtle avenues without the recording ever becoming too quiet. Creaking strings open up the relatively brief Some Rows Existed with Jackson producing tinny low pitched vibrations on his horn while Kirshner rattles off non-linear patterns. The honking sax hovers over the accelerating rhythm, and Lonberg-Holm wrings every type of string and bow sound imaginable from his instrument. The intensity of the track fades over the course of the final two minutes leaving only the droning cello, then nothing.

This is a very satisfying listen and is well proportioned sonically for an album with only two tracks (mainly due to the amount of space covered on the first track). The group works well together both in terms of ideas and their exchange, so it’s nice to see that they are still working together in Lonberg-Holm’s post-Chicago era. After A Few Days packs plenty of action into its brief-but-satisfying 34 minute run time and is sure to please fans of the combo’s previous endeavors.