Sunday, April 28, 2019

Concert Review: The Chicago Plan at the Blue Room

The American Jazz Museum described the sound of the Chicago Plan as “loose and cool" in a social media post promoting the avant-garde ensemble’s April 26 appearance at the Blue Room.  Those aren’t the words anyone in the audience of about 100 for the ensemble’s first set would have used.  The pairing of the adjectives “agitated and incendiary” or “chaotic and combustible” better represent the ensemble’s attack.

The extremely rare booking of free jazz stalwarts in Kansas City was made possible by the well-financed Goethe Pop Up.  A billboard in the Crossroads District advertised the concert.  The gambit may not have worked.  Aside from affiliates of the Goethe group and the locally based musicians Bill McKemy, Adam Schlozman, Brian Steever and Rich Wheeler who alternated sets with the Chicago Plan, I may have been the sole enthusiast of Fred Lonberg-Holm, Steve Swell, Gebhard Ullmann and Michael Zerang to pay the $10 cover charge.

With collective recording credits that include sessions with Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, El-P, Ken Vandermark, Wilco and John Zorn, the members of the Chicago Plan are all-stars in the new music community.  They validated their reputations as elite noise-makers.  Lonberg-Holm, a self-described “anti-cellist,” provided the biggest surprises.  He contributed ominous electronic enhancements, made his instrument sound like a rusty door hinge and summoned the ghost of the MC5 guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith.

Steve Swell served as a maniacal master of ceremonies.  His snarky attempts to engage the dozens of high school choir students from Iowa who filled the back half of the club fell flat, but nearly everything else he and his colleagues attempted was explosive.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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