There are, of course, many different varieties of improvisational music performance. There's the completely from-scratch improv of some of the more free members of Chicago's new breed of jazz community. There's the mostly-free, hanging-on-by-one's-coattails approach, perhaps best exemplified by jam-granddaddies the Grateful Dead. And then there's the Widespread Panic school, which some argue is not so much improvisation as it is a memorized/mathematical equation of musical cues. File Umphrey's McGee under the latter. The band, formed at Notre Dame, cites Frank Zappa and Yes as primary influences, and the group's music bears said influences out. Loopy, note-heavy swirls of sound are the thing here, and looseness (as it pertains to sloppiness) is not an option. Really, if they resemble anyone, it's Phish. Weird covers (Lionel Richie, Metallica) crop up often, and the lyrical content of the band's music is certainly secondary to the sonic bed in which it sleeps. Expect plenty of cuts from the band's brand new album, Mantis, and pray that they don't bust into "Running With the Night."
Fri., Feb. 5, 8 p.m., 2010