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Terminal 4

Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm is one of the many restless and insatiable souls who drive the Windy City's thriving experimental and rock music scenes. Only in his late '30s, this guy has already had quite a career: after studying composition with such notables as Anthony Braxton and Morton Feldman, Lonberg-Holm moved to New York, where he played with Braxton's Creative Orchestra, John Zorn, God Is My Co-Pilot, and other heavyweights. Since relocating to the avant-garde mecca of Chicago in the late '90s, Longberg-Holm has played with Ken Vandermark, Jim O'Rourke, the Peter Brötzmann Tentet, The Flying Luttenbachers, US Maple, and countless others.

So Longberg-Holm's unending search for a new project led him to start Terminal 4, an all-star experimental quartet featuring bassist Josh Abrams (David Boykin Octet), trombonist Jeb Bishop (Vandermark 5, Flying Luttenbachers), and guitarist Ben Vida (Town and Country). Terminal 4's name suggests departure, for a trip, perhaps by air, and that's not an inaccurate way to describe the experience of listening to the quartet's surprisingly accessible compositions. Longberg-Holm's cello swoops and glides through each piece like some great winged thing, often leading the way, sometimes dropping back to serve as a kind of second bass line. Together, Bishop, whose bright, winsome horn is about as delicate as a trombone can be, and Vida, who sometimes plays his guitar straight, sometimes scrapes and tweaks it, thread their instruments together into light delicate melodies. Miscellaneous bits of white noise are woven through the music so seamlessly and subtly they feel like additional instruments. All is astutely orchestrated, delicately crafted, yet the energy of improvisation is there.

The quartet's eponymous 2001 debut features forty minutes of compositions which collide pop forms, improvisational jazz, and avant-garde chamber music with uncanny grace. Check out the lugubriously sonorous "Slinky" or the more obtuse, experimental "A.D." to see for yourself.