PERCUSSIONIST IMPROVISOR COMPOSER
In the nearly three years since it opened, Hothouse has earned a reputation for adventurous programming of poetry readings, political discussions and music.
Now it's taking another step: eight days of top local underground and avant-garde groups in jazz, alternative rock and experimental music. The music festival runs four days beginning Thursday and four more days starting June 24 at Hot House, 1565 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Marguerite Horberg, who operates and books acts at Hot House, coordinated the event with the help of percussionist Michael Zerang and clarinetist Gene Coleman, both of whom will perform. They intend to make it an annual event.
Zerang, who has been involved in improvised music in Chicago for more than a decade, says: "The initial idea (for the festival) was formed by seeing so many local bands doing things slightly off-center within a variety of styles. A lot of the performers are not recorded and have no hype or strong following, and this presents a good opportunity.
"All of these bands are doing interesting things, and by grouping them together we hope to draw some significant attention."
Zerang, who will perform with Liof Munimula and the Vandermark Quartet, adds, "A lot of these musicians are no longer merely experimenting, but they are developing their talents and taking them somewhere and creating something solid."
This dedication to developing and nurturing non-mainstream artists was a founding mission for Hot House.
"When Hothouse opened, it was my deliberate intention to present mostly non-white artists first," Horberg says. "I was criticized by some people for that decision, but I knew that it would create an atmosphere where other things could develop that weren't taking place elsewhere.
"It was important for me to have a strong Latino presence and a strong African-American presence."
The festival's ambitious mixture of performers goes far in crossing racial, musical and even age differences. The opening night program includes veteran South Side tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson, whose burly and blustery jazz attack is rarely heard on the North Side these days.
Also slated are Torque Tet, a younger but experienced multiracial unit imbuing its modernistic jazz with healthy doses of free improvisation; and Redfish, a Chicago quartet that paints a broad picture of globe-trotting, pan-cultural rhythms.
The festival has programmed quirky alternative acts, such as Math and Maestro Subgum and the Whole, beside intense free-improvisation mavens like Caffeine and Liof Munimula.
The programming also features more classically based new-music ensembles, such as CUBE and Noamnesia (withwhom Coleman will play).
Horberg admits that the festival is a bit of "a marketing device." She explains, "I think there's a number of bands that are still marginalized in the way they're unable to present their music, and by staggering several of them in one evening, the idea is that you might increase their potential audience."
The lineup-Thursday: Torque Tet, Fred Anderson Trio, Redfish; Friday: Flying Luttenbachers, Saxophonitis, and Math; Saturday: Ivo Perelman; Sunday: Damon Short Quintet, and Lynn Book and Tatsu Aoki. June 24: Gilgamesh Jazz Cosmorchestra, Trodant Rome, NRG Ensemble, and Maestro Subgum and the Whole; June 25: Parage, CUBE, and the Vandermark Quartet; June 26: Ndiko Xabaand Nomusa Xaba, and Nomanesia; June 27: Caffeine, Hal Rammel, and LiofMunimula.
"The musicians are playing for little money, and the thought behind the whole thing is to try and get as many people out as possible, so we deliberately kept the admission price low ($7 a night, except for Saturday's Perelman show, $12). For the cost of one group, you get to hear three."
In that spirit, a series pass for $45 (which does not apply to Saturday's show) is available; phone312-235-2334.
PHOTO: Michael Zerang (from left), Marguerite Horberg and Gene Coleman go over plans for their festival of "slightly off-center'' music at HotHouse, which starts Thursday. Tribune photo by John Bartley.
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