Bassist Christopher Dammann returns to Chicago, but his new record Restroy shows he never really left
Bassist Christopher Dammann may have spent the last eight years in Charlottesville, Virginia, but musically he’s a Chicagoan. He got his schooling at Northwestern University and on the bandstand of the Velvet Lounge, and subsequently founded two bands he’s kept in play even when he’s had to commute across state lines in order to join them. Both his groups Restroy—whose self-titled second album was just released by local 1980 label—and 3.5.7 Ensemble combine musicians from his cohort with veterans old enough to be their mentors. On the new Restroy record members of the two ensembles pull together to lend gravitas to Dammann’s compositions. On opening track “A Line and a Point,” trumpeter James Davis blows a graceful, Iberian-tinged melody while Dammann’s resonant double bass and Kevin Davis’s (no relation) fuzz-begrimed cello churn up sonorities that cross rock distortion with a trance-inducing Moroccan pulse. Rising new-music pianist Mabel Kwan and seasoned keyboardist Paul Giallorenzo weave electronic tones into a gauzy harmonic veil on the ballad “Thread,” and Giallorenzo’s propulsive synthesizer locks grooves with master drummer Avreeayl Ra to kick the uptempo “Apart” into overdrive. The combo’s amalgamations of acoustic and electronic textures scratch the same itch as Rob Mazurek and Chad Taylor’s Chicago Underground Duo without ever sounding like an imitation.