Perhaps the biggest thrill during a consistently engaging Outside the Spotlight performance by Made to Break last night at The Bazaar came from not knowing what would happen next. One sensed the same feeling was likely shared by the musicians onstage.
First there was the sheer instrumental might of the band. Its roster boasted two Chicago jazz pros, and veterans of many OTS shows over the last 12 years – Ken Vandermark (on tenor and baritone saxophones and clarinet) and Tim Daisy (on drums and percussion). That both played with equal levels of stamina and invention should come as no surprise, nor should their ability to construct and dissolves a melodic idea. But their playing last night was especially groove-conscious, often to the point of approximately rock and funk. Add in the clean bottom end of a fine young bassist from Amsterdam, Jasper Stadhouders, and the grooves – especially ones the band built to that stopped on a dime at the end of each piece – packed even greater force while still sounding rhythmically flexible.
That was just half of the story last night. The rest came from Christof Kurzmann, an artfully clever sound sculpturer from Vienna (who, along with Stadhouders, made his OTS debut with this performance). Kurzmann’s musical by-line was simply “electronics.” What that translated to last night was a variety of multi-purpose sounds summoned with the help of a laptop. Sometimes that served as a second horn to Vandermark. At others, it appropriated the more traditional placement of keyboardist. And there were several instances where Kurzmann’s variety of oscillating sounds gave a ghostly, almost calliope like ambience to the music.
But Kurzmann was as much a processor of sounds as a creator. In one particularly arresting sequence during the first of the program’s two sets, he captured bits of Vandermark’s playing on loops and shot them back his way. That essentially allowed Vandermark the opportunity to harmonize with himself in an almost completely live fashion.
Outside of that, the four members took cues from one another like actors playing out a scene. When one idea shut down, another immediately started anew from a different musician, pushing this already exhilarating performance to yet more undiscovered territory.