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Fred Lonberg-Holm’s Fast Citizens: Gather

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Fred Lonberg-Holm keeps himself so busy with such a vast number of projects that it seems nearly impossible to know what to expect from him. Will he be the vicious cello-scraping improviser of Ballister or the Fred Katz disciple of the Valentine Trio? On both of these recent albums, he falls somewhere in between.

Fast Citizens consists of six strong musical leaders based in or affiliated with Chicago. Their first two albums gave leadership and writing responsibilities to saxophonists Keefe Jackson and Aram Shelton, respectively. Lonberg-Holm’s turn results in a series of formidable compositions that balance lyricism with wild frenzy and good humor. The latter quality is on display in “Infra-Pass,” where Shelton’s fast and intricate alto solo is interrupted by a vocal shriek from Jackson’s bass clarinet (an instrument he plays here more than his usual tenor). It arrives amid metallic noise from Lonberg-Holm’s cello and sounds so outrageous that it can only be the result of good-natured tomfoolery. Plus, it leads to the tune’s second great bass clarinet solo.

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