Chicago: experimental cello capital of the world?

Posted on: July 8, 2022

“Ishmael Ali wears many musical hats: composer, guitarist (in the bands Je’raf and Errata) and co-founder of a recording space,” writes Hannah Edgar in last Tuesday’s (6/28) Chicago Tribune. “But it’s his most recent instrument—cello—that has become an all-out obsession…. Ali is one of several artists exploring the cello’s expressive potential, seemingly converging on Chicago overnight. Some have … returned here after sojourns in other cities—like Tomeka Reid, long a stalwart of Chicago’s free jazz scene, and Helen Money, the stage name of rock musician Alison Chesley. Others are brand-new arrivals, like olula negre, a resident artist at the venue Elastic Arts who co-curates its AfriClassical Futures series…. Katinka Kleijn … [is] a cellist who plays in the Chicago Symphony and on the city’s improvised music circuits…. She … remembers when Chicago’s cello improvisers more or less started and ended with her, [Fred] Lonberg-Holm and Reid. Now, she enthuses about the city’s younger cello guard…. Kleijn regularly teams up with Lia Kohl, another cellist in the city who takes an expansive, performance-art-inspired approach to the instrument…. ‘It’s very cool that there’s a lot more string players in general, and especially more cello improvisers,’ ” says Reid.