Jaap Blonk / Fred Lonberg-Holm / Michael Zerang Trio

May 14, 1999
Section Three
Critic’s Choice
By Peter Margasak

As serendipitous or profound as improvised music can be, it’s not always the most scintillating thing to watch. That’s why a live show by Dutch sound artist Jaap Blonk–an extreme vocal acrobat who takes great pride in the strange expressions he can twist from his singular mug while he’s performing–is a treat. (Check out the hilarious interactive “Blank Organ” page on his Web site, www.bajazzo.com/blonkorgan.html, for some excellent thumbnail representations of what he does.) Blonk can in no way be called a singer, but his precise control of the astonishing variety of utterances that fly, ooze, pop, and drip from his contorted lips make him a first-rate improviser. His work in the rock?leaning trio Braaxtaal captures him at his most theatrical and bombastic, but he can temper his attack for a more spontaneous setting without sacrificing any of its impact. Blonk will appear in a number of different contexts over the next two weeks in Chicago. On Sunday he performs at the Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music with the collaborators who played on his most subdued recording, a contribution to the Kontrans “Improvisors” series, in 1996: Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson and percussionist Michael Zerang. On Wednesday he performs with Zerang and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, with whom he made the recently released First Meetings (Buzz) the album cleverly blurs the distinctions between his unhinged sputtering and Lonberg-Holm’s tactile scrapes. Next Friday Blank performs solo and in a duo with trombonist Jeb Bishop, whose slinky, almost vocal eruptions should make a swell match; and finally, next Saturday, he’ll team up with keyboardist Jim Baker, using electronics to alter his voice. Sunday, 5 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N, Western; 773?276-3600. Wednesday, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. Next Friday and Saturday, May 21 and 22, 8 PM, Link’s Hall, 3435 N. Sheff ield; 773-281-0824.

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