Cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, bassist Nick Macri, and drummer Charles Rumback—the formidable trio who make up the core of Stirrup—have been at the center of Chicago’s classification-defying scene for years, running the gamut from jazz and its myriad subgenres to improvised music to rock-centric experimentation. On their fourth and latest album, The Avondale Addition, the threesome join forces with a remarkably diverse and deft six-piece ensemble; hence the +6.
With Jen Clare Paulson (viola), Zoots Houston (electronics), Keefe Jackson (reeds), Russ Johnson (trumpet), Peter Manu (guitar, violin), and Mars Williams (reeds) in the fray, Stirrup+6 lead the listener on a journey rife with extended and unpredictable passages. Compositionally and improvisationally, the seven pieces that make up The Avondale Addition are exquisite. Even the dissonant, tension-filled moments lend chilled-out vibes.
It’s a minor miracle that this 2017 live set at Elastic Arts in Chicago was recorded; the fluidity and chemistry seem effortless from the very first squealing notes of “Song for Salim.” Clang and clatter quickly give way to a masterfully constructed marrying of melodic lines and structurally intricate sections that gloriously unfurl over the track’s intoxicating 11-minute length. That first track sets the tone for The Avondale Addition, of which the majority is composed but also allows for free improvisation. Under the steady direction of Lonberg-Holm as “lightbox operator” (instead of playing, he uses a light-based cueing system and cue cards to conduct the group), each player is an equal force, bringing another euphonious voice to the program.
Sprawling and hypnotic with ebbs and flows galore, Stirrup+6’s The Avondale Addition shows Chicago’s jazz scene is the gift that keeps on giving.