Colin Stetson at Schubas


It’s hard to believe what Colin Stetson is able to do with the saxophone. As he performed Tuesday, July 28, at Schubas, it sounded at times like three or four instruments were playing, but he was standing alone, without any electronics gear or effects pedals to aid him. Here’s how the Constellation record label’s website explains what he does:

Colin Stetson has developed a unique and renowned voice as a performer and composer, chiefly on bass and tenor saxophones, where he rallies an array of technical strengths and innovations (circular breathing, contact micing of his own body and the body of his instrument, vocalizations through the reed) to make some of the most captivatingly organic, darkly soulful and otherworldly solo instrumental work of recent years.

The notes came sprawling out of his saxophones — including a massive bass sax that he played on several of the compositions — with one layer of tones circling around in a pattern while other layers squealed, bleated and soared on top. The force of the music was almost overwhelming at times, both because of the volume levels and the way those notes vibrated against one another. Stetson’s performance was something of an athletic feat, and he’d worked up a set by the end of an incredible hour.

Colin Stetson will also play (with the great Chicago percussionist Frank Rosaly) Thursday at Constellation.

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Opening act Gracie and Rachel
Opening act Gracie and Rachel