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  • Arts + Literature Laboratory 2021 Winnebago Street Madison, WI, 53704 United States (map)

The Cleveland improvisational trio explores abrasive free jazz and ominous drone. Info/tix


The Cleveland trio Togishi improvises its way through a wild array of harmonic possibilities, but also hops across a number of approaches to atmosphere and mood. On the self-titled debut album Togishi released in March, the band variously sounds like a relatively straightforward free-jazz outfit, a noisy drone project, a gentle ambient venture, and a plucky acoustic folk group with a dash of abrasive saxophone. There's still an instinctual cohesion at work in Togishi's music, but given who's in the band, it makes sense that things would stretch in a number of improbable directions. Drummer Joe Tomino is best known for the bruising metal-reggae hybrids of Dub Trio but has also worked extensively as a session and touring musician for hire with artists ranging from Lady Gaga to Matisyahu to the Fugees, in addition to various other solo and collaborative outings. Saxophonist Dan Wenninger has worked extensively in free jazz, plays in the gritty New Orleans-second-line-style ensemble Revolution Brass Band, and played in genres ranging from reggae to psych-rock. Guitarist Mike Sopko's collaborators over the years have included Twin Cities electronic artist Dosh and bassist Bill Laswell. Tomino and Sopko also play together in a doom-metal duo called Yellowstone Apocalypse.

So, that gives Togishi a lot of experiences and ideas to work with, and the flexibility and endurance to explore those possibilities. "Flow State" begins with Sopko laying down soft, delay-soaked chords, as Wenninger's murmuring sax and Tomino's electronic manipulations gradually build the piece toward a generous, ecstatic crescendo. Wenninger leads the trio into the nine-minute "Western Reserve" with sinuous melodies that gradually become more tense and volatile, and Tomino gradually shapes things into a tumultuous shuffle. Elsewhere, on "Charity Shuffle" and "Van Swernigan," the trio heads straight into distortion and squawking reeds, but with an ear for depth and texture amid the overload. The album closes with "The Force," a slow descent into cavernous territory, with Sopko plodding away on the lower strings of his guitar and Tomino creating ominous rustles and scratches. Togishi is slated to play a fully improvised set here, so expect the trio to expand even further. —Scott Gordon

Later Event: June 3
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