8 p.m. June 20 at Mecca, 948 Manchester St. $5.
Since the inception of the Outside the Spotlight Series, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm has played in a dozen or so performance settings, from a duo with famed German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann to numerous trios including one with American reed and brass stylist Joe McPhee to the army-sized Chicago Tentet, which included both artists. There was even one instance where the Chicago-based Lonberg-Holm performed here on his own.
A multitude of performance options, yes, but the agenda was always the same: to display the cello in a new and largely improvisational environment. Of course, utilizing an arsenal of pedal effects as well as assorted scrapes and slaps to extend the instrument's natural voice opens Lonberg-Holm and his many group projects up to even more musical possibilities.
"I don't really jump around from that many projects," Lonberg-Holm says. "My project is always playing the cello and improvising, so it's all one big project with different people. That seems to make more sense than saying I only improvise with one particular group of players.
"So I'm open to performing with people I really like to play with. But I'm also open to playing with people I'm not necessarily so excited about but who are willing to try something new just to see what we can do together. The job description for improvisers, if you're going to be serious about it, isn't that the settings be glamorous. It's that they work."
The cellist returns to the WRFL-FM sponsored OTS series on Saturday in yet another collaborative setting. This one teams him with Norwegian percussionist Stxl Solberg. The two have played here before with the quartet VC/DC (the name is not a play on a certain Australian rock troupe but a reference to an instrumental make-up of voice, cello, drums and clarinet). The duo with Solberg possesses an equally telling name: Party Knullers.
"(Stxl) and I share a lot in terms of general cultural interests with the kinds of music that we like, film and literature — just the culture, in general. Since we met, we have developed a special kind of rapport. That's part of the whole Party Knuller concept and one of the reasons we chose the name.
"In Germany, the latest hits are packaged like those old K-Tel compilations. They're marketed over there as Party Knullers. They would be kind of cheesy pop songs of the moment that most of my intellectual German friends are not particularly proud of. Even though this duo improvises, it still encompasses different gestalts, or something, than some of the other projects I'm in.
"For years and years, I was reluctant to play with drummers in general because I felt like somehow the cello couldn't hold up sonically with the drums. But then a few years ago, I played with Stxl and a few times with Paal Nilssen-Love (another OTS regular who played in Lexington earlier this week). We're all evolving and changing all the time, so the music has become more intimate and personalized. You're just communicating on a different level."
Still more cello
When you discuss cello in Lexington in a purely non-classical setting, talk inevitably turns to our own Ben Sollee. In just under a decade, he has found new pop, folk and film score settings for the instrument while establishing a global fanbase.
Sollee seems to be sticking closer to home this summer. He returns to WUKY-FM's Phoenix Fridays series Friday at Phoenix Park, at the corner of West Main Street and South Limestone, on a bill that includes Nashville-based acoustic music practitioners Humming House and Louisville's Twin Limb, who opened Sollee's April Earth Day concert at the Kentucky Theatre. The free performance begins at 5:30 p.m.
For more information, call (859) 257-3221 or got to Wuky.org.