It's not easy to get on Leo Records. The U.K. label, founded 30 years ago by Leo Feigin, is a bastion of the avant-jazz/improv scene, releasing Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Sun Ra and Eugene Chadbourne.
So it's a step up for bass clarinetist Jason Stein, who received a grant from the city of Chicago to record at Delmark Studios. "I sent [the tape] to Leo and he was enthusiastic," Stein recounts. "It's a great breakthrough having a solo record. There's something exposed and vulnerable about [touring solo] that I really like -- no one to lean on, nowhere to hide."
The Leo CD, In Exchange for a Process, is a collection of experimentalist études as unique as his focus on the bass clarinet as an improvised instrument. Only a few others, such as German Rudi Mahall and Swiss Michel Pilz, share that obsession; here, Stein has the whole continent to himself. His pieces are indeed "studies," explains Stein: "I'm dealing with different vocabularies and trying to make them as clear as possible."
Saxophonist and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Ken Vandermark helped, allowing Stein's free-jazz trio Locksmith Isidore to release two CDs. "Ken and I played in a quartet together and toured Europe," Stein explains, "so when I started out on my own, he had opened doors."
Stein met Pittsburgh guitarist Dave Bernabo at the Elastic performance space in Chicago, and looks forward to a spontaneous collaboration with Bernabo's group Assembly. "I'm doing quite a bit of playing with people I don't know yet," Stein says. "I haven't met the other people in Dave's band, so it's going to be a surprise."
8 p.m. Fri., Oct. 23. With Vocal Assembly, Michael Johnsen, James Kunz Trio. Most Wanted Art, 5015 Penn Ave., Garfield. All ages. $6. 412-496-0468