Sangliers [TB#14, return journey] | December 2021, Chicago & Madison

In the beginning was free music. And a taste for adventure. If you’ve ever wondered how a team of improvising musicians actually manage to stabilize themselves, even though they’ve decided to work in instability, Sangliers is waiting for you. An international quintet that dedicates itself to free, total and collective improvisation, and that has very serious reasons to do so. One of them is that Keefe Jackson, Dave Rempis, Christine Wodraska, Didier Lasserre and Peter Orins have answered the call of The Bridge, a transatlantic network that brings together improvisers from Chicago and France, in ensembles that are always mixed, always hybrid, always phenomenal. Another reason, not the least, is that for these five musicians improvisation is a method and a philosophy. When music is strictly the result of direct actions, reactions and interactions (interferences) between the players, without the mediation of a leader (an authority), a score or a structure (a law), only the forces in presence and the collective creation, always fluctuating, to which they end up incessantly according to their transactions in situ and in real time, count. Here and now. The internal functioning, the functional agility, of such a group of individuals, at the same time mobile, tactical and operational, certainly has political resonances, evoking for example the concept of swarm intelligence put forward by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri.

Constellation, December 9. Just off the plane, Christine Wodraska and Peter Orins meet Keefe Jackson, another Sanglier, on Western Avenue. And even pianist Alexander Hawkins, who was there for something else. A crossroads of pianists in the Chicago hub. A chase of hypnotized pianists on stage. Pianos-swordfish. It starts well.

Roosevelt University, December 10th. Sangliers are finally together, four of them (but without Didier Lasserre who couldn’t make the trip), in a classroom on top of a skyscraper. Behind the windows, the sun hits the panes when it starts, as if to enter and take shelter in the music.  And towards the end, the mist has covered everything. Perhaps it is the opposite in the questioning that the musicians share with the students.

Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, December 10. Another Sanglier, from the early days, has joined the band of four. Red drums for Michael Zerang, blue drums for Peter Orins. Beacons. Catapults. Everything is propelled and rushed, rushing through the saxophones and clarinets of Keefe Jackson and Dave Rempis, through the vortex of Christine Wodraska’s piano. Everything is going to be fine.

Doug Fogelson Studio, December 11. A herd of three Sangliers this time in the loft and laboratory, in the cabinet of curiosities of the photographer and master artist of the place – only the tumult of the winds (it’s tornado season) and the turbulence of the drums (rhythms that petrify and then burst). And not only.

ProMusica, December 12. Another lair, with an actual dragon and his treasure, for Sangliers – who are not afraid of anything, though, who are digging. A street-side public recording on a spring Sunday afternoon in Winter, and it’s like putting blacksmith shops back in the city center, right now. The best way to fight the corruption of luxury businesses?

Hungry Brain, December 12. Subsets, other ensembles. First, Christine Wodraska shared the stage and the altar with alto saxophonist Sarah Clausen, drummer Isaiah Spencer and bassist Jason Roebke. Next, Peter Orins shared the stage and altar with keyboardist Jim Baker, tenor saxophonist and flutist Molly Jones and sound artist Lou Mallozzi. Two ad hoc and perfectly constituted ensembles, one crossed by diagonal musings, the other agitated by happy spasms.

Elastic – Anagram Series, December 13. That evening, Sangliers is visited by the implacable Avreeayl Ra. All the forces of nature are unleashed. All the Danaïdes’ barrels roll down the side of volcanoes.

Experimental Sound Studio, December 14 and 15. ESS where Sun Ra’s sound archives are stored. Sangliers has selected several spoken passages of Sony’r Ra and his interstellar sapience, on which they will record. Infiltrate. Aliens. Alienate. Then they moved on to the continuation of the musical exquisite corpse started some three years ago. Each Bridge band adds a new improvisation by listening only to the last seconds of the previous band’s improvisation. This will constitute a 15-part suite with 70 musicians by 2026…

Elastic – Improvisation Music Series, December 16. First Christine Wodrascka and Michael Zerang, a duo of wonders, almost nothing, 88 magnetic keys, a snare drum and a series of phosphorescent bowls. Then Peter Orins with Peter Maunu, Nick Macri, Carol Genetti, Julian Kirshner and Emily Beisel, in a sextet and a ship over and under the waves. Sub-ensembles are sometimes super-ensembles.

Hideout, December 17th. That evening, Sangliers receives the visit of the incisive Katinka Kleijn for a relentless, wild set. Group cohesion in all its states, in all its glares. And the mysteries.

Old Town School of Folk Music, December 18. Keefe Jackson, Christine Wodrascka, and Peter Orins welcome the best storyteller from the third planet in the solar system, Marvin Tate, for a workshop titled How to link it up in improvisation, how to bridge people, places, and things. There’s silent playing, musical talking, it almost says it all.

American Indian Center, December 18. Keefe Jackson and Peter Orins are invited by Red Line for a sharing that the Native Americans themselves have entitled The Bridge to Native Chicago: A Music Exchange of Jazz, Native Flute and Songs of the Southern Plains. In one thrill, many, they celebrate what is connected, what is not connected, what connects.

Madison, December 19th. Sheltered in Audio for the Arts cave, where the BlueStem comrades have programmed them, Sangliers gives its last concert as a quartet with a decidedly impressive determination. It all flows without saying, but much like a torrent. And ends with a strange nursery rhyme…

Fine Arts Building, December 20. Tucked in the heights of an old-fashioned skyscraper is the Fab Music Studio, where the friends and allies of Asian Improv aRts Midwest (bassist Tatsu Aoki, saxophonists Jeff Chan and Mai Sugimoto) have invited Christine Wodrascka and Peter Orins to record. They were miraculously joined by singer Ugochi Nwaogwugwu (from Nigeria and Chicago) and guitarist Nicolas Lossen (from Martinique and Chicago). We go around the world in Chicago, under multiple small forms or vessels. Mixed magic bag.

Constellation, December 21. For the last night and after the first morning (they’ve already played as a duo at dawn: rising sun, beating drums), Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang have also invited Sangliers to split up for their 31st Annual Winter Solstice Concert Series. First Zerang with Jackson, Rempis and Orins, and it’s swarming and spinning. Then Drake with Wodrascka and Joshua Abrams. There is immersion, submersion and sinkings. Music is sometimes the least ceremonial of ceremonies.