Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Show Tonight: Ben Goldberg & Michael Coleman, Ben Opie

Since the Thunderbird Cafe closed for renovations, I've really been missing Space Exchange, the Tuesday night series hosted by Ben Opie (saxophones), Dave Throckmorton (drums) and a few other musicians that have come and gone out of Pittsburgh. Each week one of the guys would present a different group (which often included one of the other SE hosts) that might not have been pure jazz but were rooted in improvisational music.

In addition to the music, it was a cool community of musicians and listeners who frequented it - a good way to catch up with everyone, and I know I got at least two ideas for articles from hanging out there on a regular basis. Plus it's always cool when the bartender sees you coming and starts making your drink without saying a word. I'm not exactly sure when the Thunderbird will reopen but hopefully Space Exchange will be part of it.

Until then, I have to catch as catch can. Tonight Ben Opie is opening for Ben Goldberg at Howler's. He's playing a solo set, which may or may not incorporate electronics and computer stuff/noise into it. So I'm going to be sure to get their on time to catch him and hopefully catch up on things.

Then there's the headlining duo of Ben Goldberg (clarinet) and Michael Coleman (keyboards). They came to town twice last year in a trio. Last March I previewed Goldberg in City Paper. Tonight they're performing Hocus Pocus (Book H of Practitioners), a series of etudes that Steve Lacy wrote for solo soprano saxophone. They've, of course, adapted it for clarinet and keyboards/electronics, which should be well worth exploring.

When they came to town last fall, along with drummer Hamir Atwal, they played a strong set that segued easily between free improvisation and written works, including a version of Thelonious Monk's "Light Blue," which can get really lugubrious if the players aren't careful. They were. Coleman did a great job of balancing keyboard work and bass duties. And Goldberg's approach to soloing was astounding.

They appear together on an album credited to Schimscheimer Family Trio. Goldberg was credited more as a guest, while Coleman, saxophonist Kasey Knudsen and drummer Jon Arkin were the main "family." Each of the three were also credited with electronics, which added a unique, somewhat vintage synth/video game effect to various tracks.

Goldberg - who always has a handful of projects going at once - also released an album on Relative Pitch a few months ago as part of a trio called the Out Louds. He, guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara make up the group which engaged in some spry improvisations that were loose but still strong.

Come to the show tonight and bring a few extra bucks to pick up one of these discs, or any others they might have. For what it's worth, there's an ATM in the bar too. Howler's is located at 4509 Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield. Cover is $10. Doors open at 8 p.m.

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