This week, let's get better acquainted with Joshua Abrams, the Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist whose group Natural Information Society will perform in a concert presented by New Music Circle at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 22 at Joe's Cafe, the gallery and "house concert" venue at 6014 Kingsbury Ave in the Central West End.
As a bassist, Abrams has worked with many musicians well-known in Chicago's jazz and improv communities, including the David Boykin Expanse, Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble, Jeb Bishop, Hamid Drake, and dozens more. He's released six albums as a leader - including two using the alias Reminder - and has contributed to dozens more as a sideman.
Abrams' ensembles over the years have included the "back porch minimalist" band Town and Country; the trio Sticks and Stones, with Mantana Roberts and Chad Taylor; and a trio with guitarist Jeff Parker and drummer John Herndon of Tortoise.
Then there's Natural Information Society, which was was formed to spotlight Abrams' work on the the guimbri, "a three-stringed animal hide bass traditionally used by the Gnawa of north africa in healing ceremonies." Usually configured as a trio or quartet, the group's sound might be described as a sort of psychedelic tribal music, incorporating contemporary electronics and drones along with folk instruments and free improv.
You can start to get the idea by viewing the first video up above, recorded at a gig in October 2013 and featuring Abrams, harmonium player Lisa Alvarado, trumpeter Artur Majewski, and drummer Kuba Suchar.
Down below, you can see two more excerpts from Natural Information Society performances in 2012 and in 2010 at Chicago's Lincoln Hall, followed by a short video of Abrams playing a guimbri solo on a Chicago rooftop.
In the fifth clip, you can see Abrams teamed with the prolific percussionist Michael Zerang in an excerpt from a 2012 concert at a venue called Comfort Station in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood.
Lastly, today's final video, which shows Abrams with saxophonist Avreeayl Ra and drummer Dave Rempis at a gig in Chicago last May, offers an "contrast and compare" opportunity to hear a bit of his playing on a conventional acoustic bass.
For more about Joshua Abrams and Natural Information Society, check out this brief interview with Phawker.com; and this review of his 2012 album Represencing.