Thursday, January 30, North Street Cabaret, 8 p.m. Info
Photo: Mr. Chair’s core members, b Anya Kubilus.
Keeping up with Madison band Mr. Chair is a bit like having one of those friends who has a new bright idea every week and is always totally stoked about it: The four-piece released a triple album last year called Nebulebula, celebrated it with a show that featured 13 guest musicians, has an ongoing collaboration with a UW-Madison geoscience professor, and seems to try out new themes and different expanded lineups at just about every live show these days, including a whimsical circus- and aviation-themed night in November. On paper it seems scattered and almost manic, but all this reaching for new themes and context seems to really fuel Mr. Chair’s central focus: music that pull together elements of jazz, contemporary classical, and progressive rock. Pianist Jason Kutz, trombone player Mark Hetzler, bassist Ben Ferris, and drummer Mike Koszewski’s performances on Nebulebula tackle weighty original compositions like “Mile Of Ledges” and “Burner Phone” with brisk and playful chemistry.
There’s yet another twist in store for this North Street Cabaret show: Guitarist Chris Bucheit (who also took part in November’s “Mr. Chair’s Flying Circus” show at BarleyPop Live) and trumpeter Dave Cooper will be collaborating here with the band’s core quartet. Both guest players know the value of patience and understatement. Bucheit’s 2019 solo EP Guitar Music and his work in instrumental trio Major Vistas blend concision with grace, using melodies that draw on pop music as much as they do jazz, and clean electric guitar tones that feel warm and clear but never over-polished. Cooper has worked extensively in both jazz and classical settings, developing an incredibly full trumpet sound that pairs well with the harmonic richness of his work as a composer and bandleader, including on his 2015 album The Journey and with his more recently formed quartet Quad.
Combined with the venue itself, Cooper and Bucheit might help to bring out more of Mr. Chair’s subtleties, but add two versatile musicians to an already volatile brew and it could really go in any number of directions. Kutz says he’s looking forward to hearing Bucheit’s electric guitar and Hetzler’s trombone, “à la Godzilla v. Mothra.” The show will also be a chance to hear some of Bucheit’s original material in a different setting. “We’ve arranged some of our pieces (‘Correction,’ ‘Purity,’ ‘Freed,’ and more) to include trumpet and guitar, and we’ll be playing a couple of Chris’ tunes,” Kutz says. In the months ahead, Kutz says, Mr. Chair’s activities will include performances with vocalist Leslie Damaso, a brass choir, and with added strings, “plus some other very exciting collabs being planned, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.” —Scott Gordon