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Ben Allison And Think Free

  • Café Coda 1224 Williamson Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

A versatile jazz bassist visits in conjunction with a UW-Madison residency. Info/tix


New York jazz bassist Ben Allison is many things (including an advocate for musicians' royalties in the era of streaming audio, something he's discussed in testimony before Congress), but perhaps above all he is a writer of accessible, compact tunes that don't sound quite like anyone else's. These songs are often built on hooks, such as the hypnotic bassline in "Layers Of The City," the tremolo guitar chords that begin "Kramer Vs. Kramer Vs. Godzilla," or the raspy plucked-string ostinato that starts off "Swiss Cheese D."  They also have tuneful melodies—that of "Fred," for example—that can stick in your head after one or two listens. Combine these elements with a contrasting bridge and deft arranging, and you get a clearly delineated, vivid sound-world, like a page from a graphic novel.

Allison is bringing his Think Free band to town in conjunction with a residency at UW-Madison, and it's a terrific group that requires dropping a metric ton of jazz names to introduce. At this Café Coda show, the band will include Shane Endsley on Trumpet (Kneebody), Rudy Royston on drums (Bill Frisell, JD Allen, Dave Douglas, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and more), and Steve Cardenas on electric guitar (Paul Motian Band, John Patitucci, etc.). As it happens, this is not the lineup from the project's latest album, 2018's Layers Of The City, but a slightly reduced version of the equally good ensemble from the group's self-titled 2009 album. Regrettably absent will be violinist Jenny Scheinman, who played scene-stealing solos on Think Free and in the live videos Allison has uploaded from a night at New York venue Jazz Standard. —Abe Sorber

Earlier Event: October 25
The Illinois Parables
Later Event: October 25
Michelle Wolf (multiple showtimes)