pushing up daisy

chicago drummer tim daisy. photo by dave rempis.

chicago drummer tim daisy. photo by dave rempis.

In past years, Tim Daisy would have performed four or five concerts in Lexington with as many different jazz and improvising ensembles by the time autumn rolled around. But with the closing this year of The Icehouse and the overall lack of functional, non-club performance venues (or actual clubs, for that matter), Daisy has been absent for 10 months from his performance home away from home.

But with the recent introduction of a new North Limestone performance space adjacent to Al’s Bar called Cultural Preservation Resources (CPR, for short), the Chicago drummer will be back in our back yard again. On Saturday, he will show off a new trio called Vox Arcana. It utilizes modern classical composition and instrumentation but still retains the sort of open-ended improvisation that has been an earmark of the many ensembles Daisy has played with in Lexington over the past six years.

The concert will also reignite the long-running Outside the Spotlight Series of improvisational music performances that has been responsible for introducing Daisy and many other indie and avant jazz artists to Lexington audiences. Vox Arcana includes another OTS regular, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. His solo cello concert at the Morris Book Shop in July serves as the only other OTS performance of 2008. Clarinetist James Falzone completes the trio lineup.

Daisy said much of the music of Vox Arcana was inspired by two very different schools of experimental music.

One was a late ‘50s and ‘60s wave out of New York led by John Cage, Morton Feldman and Earle Brown whose then-radical works redefined the avant garde with literary and philosophical inspirations as well as non-traditional instrumentation. The other consisted of ‘60s and early ‘70s pioneers from Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) – specifically violinist/violist Leroy Jenkins and multi-reed player Anthony Braxton. The collective’s music has long embraced jazz, classical and world music while targeting international and as well as inner city audiences through education and performance programs.

“In writing this music, the first thing I thought about was the instrumentation,” Daisy said. “I wanted clarinet. I wanted cello. And even though I won’t be playing it on this trip because it’s such a large instrument, I’ve incorporated marimba into my own playing. And because I’m working in such a great city as Chicago, I had the luxury of bringing in all the musical personalities I wanted to use. It’s always much easier for me to write when I have the actual personnel in mind.”

It was likely an even easier task to write for Lonberg-Holm. The cellist – who has designed a broad, improvisational vocabulary for his instrument that includes scorched, electronically enhanced sounds – already works with Daisy in one of Chicago’s most heralded indie jazz ensembles, the Vandermark 5.

Falzone, though, establishes much of the classical direction in such new Daisy compositions as The Silver Fence and White Lines. It is a sound that is sometimes pensive, sometimes playful. But while the harmony created between clarinet and cello is especially expressive, there is still plenty of room for Daisy’s considerable percussion work – especially the chatter he regularly creates by placing smaller cymbals and bells on top of drumheads.

“James is a very accomplished classical player,” Daisy said. “And on top of being a fantastic improviser, he is also a nice foil for Fred, who has this punk rock kind of element to his playing.”

Daisy doesn’t entirely view himself as a group leader when performing with Vox Arcana, even though he composes the bulk of its material. In fact, an arrangement of pianist Carla Bley’s And Now the Queen was been one of the few non-Daisy pieces performed during summer performances by the trio. He instead sees his role, figuratively and literally, as a middleman.

“The thing is, James is coming from a very different place, musically, than Fred is,” Daisy said. “Their musical personalities are very strong, but they’re really different. That’s one of the strengths of this group, I think.

“It’s funny. When we set up on stage, Fred will be on the left, James is on the right and I’m in the middle. That set up is kind of a metaphor for our personalities. I’m always somewhere in the middle.” 

Vox Arcana performs at 7 p.m. tonight at Cultural Preservation Resources, 607 N. Limestone. $5. Call (859) 536-5568.

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