After Intermission, The Engines the touring band from Chicago definitely grabbed this audience with their approach to free music.
They played a hurtling, brave yes, brave and positive series of blues/R&B big city bass lines in these compositions, with the intersecting sounds of society, it seemed to me, stated in chants and anthems.
The four members always improvised compositionally and played clear thematic signposts and melodies before they creatively exploded and deconstructed them. In any case, the responsive listener was always given something to follow.
But using "Mash Tone" as an example this quartet really wasn't trying to be 'free' of anything in fact, their compositions frequently had built-in solo interludes and group diminuendos that set the stage for bouts of simple old-fashioned, straight ahead swinging. Vibrationally speaking, it was an engaging mash-up of R&B/blues/jazz/noise into big city serious, stout-hearted and sophisticated tunes that were made for improvisation.
A big plus was that you could hear the heritage in trombonist Bishop's chaining bop-influenced scales; or admire Rempis' loud and clear alto as it spoke out over the narcotic churn of the third tune; or lean your ear into Tim Daisy's chatters smacks and steady driving tempos, as he eyeballed his rhythmic partner, Nate McBride, whose tensile bass lines articulated and anchored the hurrying music.
I thought The Engines got rightly applauded for their graspable approach to free music, but I also felt the guest trio of Oswald/Aldcroft/Valdivia made a good case for the 'non-idiomatic' approach to free improvisation.
Long live difference?