A progressive jazz pilgrimage comes to the Jazz Gallery Thursday

Christoph Irniger and Pilgrim, a Swiss progressive jazz group. The Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts, 926 E. Center St., Milwaukee. 8 PM, Thursday October 11, Suggested donation $10


The Swiss band named Pilgrim seems on a pilgrimage – a traveling quest to convey their vision along a freely exploratory pathway, which leads them all the way to Milwaukee’s Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts on Thursday.

If you’re receptive to music that’s expansive, texturally rich and atmospheric, Pilgrim might snatch you up on their trip, at least for this evening. From what I’ve heard online, the band has the right stuff and sensibility to latch onto, says, ECM, the major European-mining jazz label, if that labels visionary leader and producer, Manfred Eicher, gets an earful of them.

Pilgrim is also further proof of the international language that jazz has become, since being born and cultivated from a profound roots music into various iterations of high art in America. It remains perhaps more greatly appreciated in its more sophisticated forms in Europe, ironically due, in part, to America’s still-rough-hewn anti-intellectualism and cultural hang-ups, which keep “tribes” of Americans from appreciating artistic gestures that seem located across their divides.

One of the least desirable presumptions from the cultural left is that a certain product or artist is for hipsters or cognoscenti only. What good does that do but promote insularity and snobbishness?

Soapboxing aside, there’s a certain wind-in-the-face coolness to this music, but anyone with an open mind might find stimulation in this pilgrimage and, if needed, a bridge a cultural gap, in one’s imagination.  I’m impressed by how the band forges ahead in the spacious and sometimes treacherous realm encompassing minimalism and modal and free jazz, with electronic fueling when necessary.

Pilgrim is led by tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist Christoph Irniger. I just saw the jazz titan David Murray playing the same two instruments at the exciting new Madison music venue Café CODA, and was reminded of the warm depth and color of the low-register clarinet, made famous in jazz by Eric Dolphy. Iringer, a still-young Swiss player won’t compare to Murray’s mastery yet, but expect serious tonal and textural range from the pilgrim who also is the primary composer. The group also includes prominently featured guitarist Dave Gisler, pianist Stefan Abey, bassist Raffaele Bossard, and drummer Michi Stulz.