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What-Are Those Strange-Sounds in the Air at the New Berkeley BART Plaza
by Sam Lefebvre, KQED Arts, Oct. 17, 2018

Gratkowski/Brown/Winant Trio make some strange magic

Frank Gratkowski, Chris Brown, and William Winant Trio @ Constellation, Chicago

Among several other reasons, this bicontinental trio stands out for its fluency in free improvisation and contemporary classical and experimental practices—and how those lines dissolve during a performance. While German reedist Frank Gratkowski is probably best known as a ferocious exponent of European free jazz, his Bay Area partners work most often in new-music circles. But on the trio’s 2012 double CD Vermillion Traces/Donaueschingen 2009 (Leo), those affiliations don’t matter much. The group generates a shape-shifting swirl of texture and color that transforms from one moment to the next with a quicksilver fluidity. And the live-signal processing by Chris Brown, a Chicago-area native who’s long been a devotee of interactive computer music, pushes the trio into a different realm. Mutating the sounds created by his partners—the serrated blurts and upper-register squalls of Gratkowski and the jagged vibraphone and metallic clatter of William Winant—Brown adds an extra level of visceral abstraction that feeds back into the live flow. Sometimes Brown knots or regurgitates the output of his cohorts in tangles or stutters, forcing a kind of spontaneous redirection. But each musician reacts beautifully on the fly, moving the music forward and surprising the listener as much as the players. —Peter Margasak,, 12.10.2014