The Thing with Joe McPhee
8 p.m. at Gumbo Ya Ya in Bar Lexington, 367 E. Main. $5. (859) 523-9292.
Want to know what I think of whenever someone mentions The Thing? I think of the 1950s horror movie by that name set in the Arctic darkness, where a team of explorers encounters a space alien that resembles a giant carrot, played by James Arness.
That's right. Marshal Matt Dillon himself playing an outer-space veggie in glorious black and white. John Carpenter remade The Thing in the '80s with tons of gore, but the campy charm was gone.
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Alas, I digress.
The Thing, as we will musically know it this weekend, also hails from the North — although its members are based in Norway and Sweden. And yes, the free jazz improvisations they develop, along with alert nods to past jazz and even pop disciples, can become pretty monstrous in a performance situation.
If you've followed the local, long-running Outside the Spotlight Series, you've seen The Thing unleashed several times.
There was a November 2005 visit at the now- demolished Underlying Themes downtown, where the band let its muscular sax/bass/drums format loose on works by Black Sabbath (Iron Man), P.J. Harvey (To Bring You My Love) and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Art Star). The Thing returned (The Return of The Thing sounds like a sequel, eh?) to play the University of Kentucky Student Center theater in April 2007 with a set that branched out into Baby Talk by blues/jazz/roots guitarist James Blood Ulmer, the fascinating You Ain't Gonna Know Me Cos You Think You Know Me by late South African trumpeter Mongezi Feza and Chiasma by Japanese pianist composer Yosuke Yamashita
Yet what emerges from saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten is a daring trio sound that prefers to reference these varied works over reinterpreting them. The basic mode of operation is improvisation. That is especially true when American saxophonist and pocket trumpet stylist Joe McPhee collaborates with The Thing, as he will Friday night in Lexington.
Fascinating things with groove and texture happen when The Thing expands to a quartet. On the 2001 collaborative album She Knows ..., McPhee opens Harvey's To Bring You My Love with whispery scratches from the miniature pocket trumpet while Gustafsson reverts to a bouncy bass role on baritone sax. But halfway in, the roles reverse. Gustafsson scorches the earth on sax and Nilssen-Love shatters the open spaces on drums before the tune calms to a funereal finale.
That's but one snapshot of what could happen Friday. McPhee performed here with The Thing at the Underlying Themes show and played alongside Gustafsson and Nilssen-Love when the Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet kicked off Outside the Spotlight eight years ago. But expect an altogether different thing when The Thing lives again Friday night.
Gumbo Ya Ya will have a $5 all-you-can-eat Cajun buffet available for the show, as it does for most OTS concerts. No word yet whether giant carrots are on the menu.
A sense of homecoming still percolates around a Goose Creek Symphony show.
That's surprising only because singer, songwriter, founder and Eastern Kentucky native Charlie Gearheart founded the group more than four decades ago, after moving to Arizona. But Goose Creek music remains ripe with rural country accents, hippie-friendly narratives that span multiple generations, and a sense of jazzy interplay that has made the band a favorite among jam-band crowds.
On Friday night at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue, Gearheart and company share the stage with Detroit's Deadstring Brothers, whose mix of Exile on Main St.-style rock, soul and country has forged a loyal local following thanks to several Green Lantern appearances during the past eight months (8 p.m. $17. (859) 309-9499.)