Option Series

OPTION is a weekly music salon on Monday nights at Experimental Sound Studio. Its programming explores contemporary perspectives on improvisation and composition in a 'salon' format, enabling local, national, and international artists to publicly discuss their practice and ideas as well as perform—all in the intimate environment of ESS's Studio A. Organized by Chicago musicians Andrew ClinkmanTim Daisy, and Ken Vandermark, the schedule of concerts represents an insider's view of what is currently most exciting in music and the arts. Shows are professionally recorded by ESS staff, and are nearly always streamed live on youtube. You can view the live stream on this page in the video window below. We are continuing the process of assembling a library of archived streams that subscribers to the series may access at any time.

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Watch excerpts from the entire 2018 season on ESS’s YouTube channel. For access to the growing archive of full-length OPTION performance and interview videos 2015-present, become an ESS MEMBER.

October 22, 2018: Option welcomed the legendary composer, percussionist, visual artist and educator Gerry Hemingway for a set of solo.

Sponsored by Peter Freeman Inc.

June 18, 2018: Sfyria trio includes NYC saxophonist Sam Decker as well as Charlie Kirchen on bass and Matt Carroll on drums.

Sponsored by Galerie Max Hetzler.

April 23, 2018: Excerpt of violinist, pianist and vocalist Macie Stewart performing with Julian Kirshner on percussion.

Sponsored by Galerie Gisela Capitain.

October 1, 2018: Violinist, violist and vocalist LaDonna Smith made a rare visit to Chicago where she performed a set of solo music.

Sponsored by Peter Freeman Inc.

May 21, 2018: Zurich based vocalist, drummer and electronics musician Jason Kahn performed solo.

Sponsored by David Nolan Gallery.

April 9, 2018: Danish-American saxophonist, vocalist, and composer Louise Dam Eckardt Jensen in duo with Chicago's own Kent Kessler.

Sponsored by Galerie Gisela Capitain.

September 24, 2018: Chicago based cellist and composer Lilianna Zofia Wosko performed a solo set followed by a duo with rising star Ben LaMar Gay on cornet and electronics.

Sponsored by gallery Luhring Augustine.

May 7, 2018: Composer, improviser and clarinetist Angel Bat Dawid performs with Adam Zanolini on saxophone and flute and Xris Espinoza on saxophone and bowed percussion.

Sponsored by David Nolan Gallery.

March 12, 2018: New York-based saxophonist and composer Ingrid Laubrock performing a solo set.

Sponsored by Corbett vs. Dempsey.

September 17, 2018: Sound artist, visual artist and architect Sandy Ewen made her debut on the Option stage with a set of solo music.

Sponsored by gallery Luhring Augustine.

April 30, 2018: Pianist Michael Coleman and clarinetist Ben Goldberg present "Practitioner" A Realization of Steve Lacy's "Hocus Pocus."

Sponsored by Galerie Gisela Capitain.

March 19, 2018: Pianist and composer Kris Davis performed solo on the OPTION stage.

Sponsored by Corbett vs. Dempsey.

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The OPTION season runs from March-October each year.

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OPTION AUDIO is a digital album series that highlights key performances from the ongoing Option program of improvised and experimental music. Every Thursday starting September 6, 2018 a completely unique recording from the most significant members of the contemporary music community will be made available to listeners, culled from a catalog of weekly concerts that have been taking place at ESS throughout the majority of each year since June of 2015.

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Become a member of ESS to support the series and get cool oPTION related benefits.


If you'd prefer, make a one-time tax-deductible donation to OPTION in the amount of your choice here:

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Keep Your Options Open II Mixtape CD
Add to Cart

In celebration of the 2018 OPTION season, ESS has released a special, limited edition mixtape CD that highlights some of the best improvisers working today from around the world. This compilation showcases the breadth and diversity of improvised and creative music with rising starts like Lea Bertucci, Katinka Kleijn, Ben LaMar Gay, Matchess, The Few and Charmaine Lee as well as veterans of free jazz (Mats Gustafsson, Antonio Borghini, Tim Daisy, Jeremiah Cymerman, Curt Newton, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten). These live sets from the 2017 OPTION season were beautifully mixed and mastered by our head engineer, Alex Inglizian. By purchasing a mixtape, you are supporting Experimental Sound Studio,  the OPTION programming, and keeping creative music alive and thriving in Chicago.

Featuring: Lea Bertucci, Matchess, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Curt Newton, Ben LaMar Gay, Charmaine Lee, The Few, Jeremiah Cymerman, Katinka Kleijn, Mats Gustafsson, Antonio Borghini, Tim Daisy

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About the programmers

Andrew Clinkman (guitarist, improviser and composer, active member of the creative music communities in both Chicago and Boston)

Tim Daisy (percussionist, improviser, composer and teacher, active participant on the international music scene since the late 1990s)

Ken Vandermark (multi-instrumentalist, improviser and composer, MacArthur Fellow, organizer of weekly concerts in Chicago at a diverse range of venues for 15 years starting in the early 1990s)