♫♪  Daniel Higgs & Michael Zerang - “Side A”

If I had to select one living human being I consider to be “divine,” Daniel Higgs would supplant the Pope in a heartbeat. I glimpsed his unmistakable uberbearded visage among the crowd at the Empty Bottle while Frank Rosaly played drums wrapped in chains on stage. This had to be, I dunno, a year ago. I had met Higgs a few months prior when he was in town for an in-store performance at Permanent Records. As Rosaly battered the skins, Higgs told me he was in Chicago crashing with friends while he recorded music with Michael Zerang. “Killer.” Remarkable drummers live in Chicago, and Daniel Higgs wants to make music with them. Shortly thereafter, as gods will, he disappeared into a cloud of mist and/or into the stairs down to the green room. My brain remembers this event happening. Despite Higgs’s mystical time-distorting properties, I am certain it was real.


Press play on Side A of the Higgs/Zerang duo’s and you’ll hear not a word of Higgs’s devotional poetry, but rather a lengthy spell of his freewheeling banjo improvisation, spattered out in rapid-fire runs and self-consuming melodic mantras. Chicago jazz/avant/improv percussion warlord Michael Zerang (who’s performed with the likes of Peter Brötzmann, Kevin Drumm, and Mats Gustafsson) lays down a litany of tight rolls and cyclical patterns on the dumbeck and the frame drum. For all the dexterity they display, the duo surprises most by virtue of their telepathic listening abilities, as Zerang tailors his precise rolls on the fly to match the phrases that Higgs introduces. They crest through a series of intensifying forays, pause for a little back porch breather, and even drop some stars and stripes into the proceedings around the 12-minute mark in an Orcutt-core (or is Orcutt actually Higgs-core?) flourish.


The duo’s recordings land via Chicago label Lake Paradise on an edition of 200 cassettes. You can order one now.

• Daniel Higgs: http://www.thrilljockey.com/thrill/Daniel-Higgs
• Michael Zerang: http://michaelzerang.com
• Lake Paradise: http://www.lakeparadiserecords.com

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