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Brennan Connors And Stray Passage

  • Mother Fool's Coffeehouse 1101 Williamson Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

A dynamic Madisonian free-jazz trio plays two intimate sets. Info

Photo by Grant Phipps.

Photo by Grant Phipps.

For the greater part of this decade, saxophonist Brennan Connors has been honing his skills as part of Samba Novistas, Madison Choro Ensemble, and his free jazz trio Stray Passage at an unusual array of local haunts, including the Mason Lounge, former Cardinal Bar, The Frequency, North Street Cabaret, Mickey's Tavern, and most recently, Bos Meadery. In late 2017, Stray Passage, which consists of bassist/multi-instrumentalist Brian Grimm (Sound Out Loud, Lovely Socialite) and percussionist Geoff Brady (Yid Vicious, Major Vistas), put out a five-track collection of improvisations entitled Emergence on the Italian label Setola di Maiale.

Recorded live over two sessions with an audience at Audio for the Arts right here in Madison, the LP, which was one of our favorite local releases of last year, is a sonically explorative, dynamic journey. The trio's compelling sound incorporates everything from meditative, near-ambient passages augmented by electronic loops to heavy grooves on electric bass and bowed violoncello that shift in conjunction with thunderous drum fills and resonating acoustic wails on both soprano and tenor sax.

The album's opener, "Time Spent Away," begins delicately as an eerie, almost chamber-like mood piece before the unison of Connors' sustained tones and Grimm's tremolo burst through in crescendo. And yet the trajectory of the improvisation remains thrillingly unpredictable, as the trio again temper things for several minutes before collectively erupting into a raucous instrumental dance near its conclusion. As somewhat of a counterpoint, "Way Way Up Swing" commences with Connors' fluttering trill on soprano sax, Brady's wild soloing that leans heavily on the snare, and Grimm's thick fretless bass guitar guided by decided funk influence. Here, at the intimate and relaxed Mother Fool's Coffeehouse where they are the lone featured act, expect two moderately lengthy and stylistically different sets. —Grant Phipps