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  • Jonathan Widran

BEN ZUCKER, Fifth Season

The Biblical expression “To every thing there is a season” is a spot-on way to dive into Fifth Season, the remarkable experimental/improvisational ensemble debut by composer and vibraphonist Ben Zucker, creating fascinating off the beaten path musical conversations with his Chicago based quartet of Mabel Kwan (piano), Eli Namay (bass) and Adam Shead (drums).

Bookended with the hypnotic atmospheric “Sussirigation A” (featuring a swirl of vibes, intense drumming and plucky basslines) and the slightly more conventionally swinging (though still wildly improv-heavy and out there” “Sussurigation B,” the set builds around a four piece suite called “Fifth Season,” which starts with the aggressive piano pounding and ultimate mood swinging “Fifth Season I” and includes a spirited vibes-rich romp (“Fifth Season II”), the expansive, low key exploration “Fifth Season III” and wraps with an unpredictable ten minute interactive dance full of thoughtful, slow burning passion and more freewheeling percussive expressions.

The quirky titles of the other pieces, “Moths Eating the Wallpaper of Concorde” and “”Sixth Season Pataforming,” will definitely prime your ears for the weird, trippy journey they take your ears on – but admidst the odd, spacey atmospheres are a few moments of melodic grace that are almost worth the price of immersion.

No matter the obvious talent involved, avant-garde ventures like Fifth Season aren’t for everyone, but if you find you’re really digging it, think of this set as an intro to the incredible treasure trove of similar works offered by the Chi-town based artist run collective Amalgam, which is dedicated to showcasing artists dedicated to experimental and improvised music.


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