Survival Unit III/Le Rex
7 p.m. Sept. 20 at The Bazaar, 720 Bryan Ave. $5. (859) 257-4636.
Now in its 13th year of providing improvisational and free jazz inspired artists from around the world a performance home in Lexington, Outside the Spotlight has found itself presenting programs and players of late that recall the series' beginnings.
Last month, OTS offered one of the first concerts anywhere by Audio One outside of its native Chicago. Though essentially a new act, the ensemble included instrumentalists who have played numerous OTS shows with bands of their own. Among the personnel were also soloists that helped initiate the series in June 2002 as members of the Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet (which, like Audio One, was a massive, 10 member group).
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Saturday's OTS outing with the Survival Unit III marks the return of two other performers from that initial OTS performance: saxophonist-pocket trumpeter Joe McPhee and drummer Michael Zerang, as well as a frequent guest of the series, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, who joined the Tentet for its return show in 2005.
While the artists have become regulars of sorts in Lexington thanks to the series, none of the music they create resembles a repeat.
In the case of Survival Unit III chieftain McPhee, a Florida-born improviser who has been featured on more than 100 albums during his 50-plus year career, the playing is rooted in a number of jazz sources. Inspired by the avant-garde explorations of saxophonist Albert Ayler, McPhee has collaborated with such present-day sax pioneers as Brotzmann, Evan Parker and Audio One founder Ken Vandermark.
One of McPhee's most commanding groups of the past two decades was the sax/bass/drums-directed Trio X. The group was so-named because its 1998 debut at the New Vision Jazz Festival in New York — an event that heavily encourages independent, improvisational-savvy artists — was ignored by the press.
Survival Unit III is a further variance of Trio X, subbing Lonberg-Holm's library of acoustic and electronically enhanced cello sounds for bass. But the potently soulful tone of McPhee's playing on saxophone and especially the miniature-sized pocket trumpet remains at the forefront of the trio, whether he is luxuriating in almost pastoral solo passages or detonating scorched group improvs.
While Trio X played OTS previously in 2011, Lonberg-Holm and Zerang were here as recently as April as members of the Chicago trio Easel. The newest Trio X album is 2013's Game Theory.
Also on tonight's OTS bill will be Le Rex, a Swiss quintet with a novel instrumental makeup (four wind players and a drummer) and a knack for blending jazz, funk, Balkan dance inspirations and more into its music.
For more information on McPhee and Survival Unit III, go to joemcphee.com. For Le Rex, go to lerexmusic.ch.
It is an almost expected marketing exercise for rock and jam-oriented bands with performance profiles that regularly overshadow their studio work to release live albums to enhance their record catalogs. Live albums are quick and relatively easy to make, deter bootlegging and play directly to the fans that champion the artists' concerts.
This is a less frequent practice in the world of commercial country music. But one act to recognize the commercial value of a live album is the Randy Rogers Band, which performs at Buster's Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St., on Sept. 25 (8 p.m.; $14 in advance, $17 day of show).
A native of Cleburne, Texas, Rogers has penned songs that have been cut by such country celebs as Kenny Chesney. While his own singles haven't exactly burned up the charts, his band's last four studio albums have all been Top 10 hits. Helping address the strong critical and audience reaction to its concerts is the Randy Rogers Band's choice to release live albums in addition to its studio product.
The third and newest one is Homemade Tamales: Live at Floore's. The CD/DVD set was recorded last October during a two-night run at Floor's Country Store, the famed Helotes, Texas, venue that has hosted legends like Hank Williams, Elvis Presley and Bob Wills since opening its doors in 1942.
For additional ticket information on Thursday's concert, call (859) 368-8871 or go to bustersbb.com.
Two wonderfully disparate acts, the multi-genre string ensemble Turtle Island Quartet and pop songsmith/cabaret stylist Nellie McKay team up on Sept. 23 at the Grand Theatre, 312 W. Main in Frankfort for a concert program entitled A Flower is a Lovesome Thing (7:30 p.m.; $30-$45). TIQ founder David Balakrishnan outlines the performance and its meshing of two very different performance styles in Saturday's Living section. For more info, call (502) 352-7469 or go grandtheatrefrankfort.org.