It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly nine years since Michael Bisio left town.
But it was 2005 when the mercurial, molasses-toned bassist set out for New York, where he has found, if not his fortune, a far better forum for his brand of international avant-garde.
Bisio had to leave to get himself in front of world audiences. As he said facetiously when he left, “Seattle is a wonderful place to live, and it’s got amazing talent, but I’ve got this mythological status, where people write about me, like, ‘If this guy really existed, he’d be really something.’”
Bisio returns to the Emerald City Saturday in one of his many new roles — as the bass man of choice for extraordinary pianist Matthew Shipp. The duo also plays Friday in Olympia.
Bisio and Shipp were both on the Silkheart label in the ’80s, but they didn’t hook up seriously until 2009, when Shipp invited the 58-year-old bassist to play a jazz festival in Sardinia.
“At the end of the concert he asked me to join the band,” said Bisio.
It was a match made in heaven. Though they are devoted postmodernists, both share a deep respect for tradition. Even in their most abstract flights, you can always feel an undercurrent — or allusions to — blues, spirituals or popular songs.
“We both came up at a time when you didn’t have to choose between being a jazz musician or being a creative musician,” said Bisio, caustically referencing the neotraditionalist vein that overtook the music in the 1980s. “On every level, we have a similar aesthetic.”
The same year Bisio got with Shipp, he started teaching once a week at Bennington College, following a long line of avant-garde players that has included trumpeter Bill Dixon and drummer Milford Graves.
Other projects include his new Accortet — bass, accordion and cornet — and quartet with saxophonist Ivo Perelman.
Shipp and Bisio have a duo album coming out on Relative Pitch, in April.
With Shipp’s trio, Bisio plays the pianist’s material and standard tunes but as a duo, says the bassist, “The sets are largely improvised. We’re always in a suite format, occasionally with standards.”
Should be a treat.
Ditto for zany Dutch drummer Han Bennink, who performs Tuesday at Cornish and Wednesday at the Royal Room with Amsterdam-based American violinist Mary Oliver.
Bennink, 71, is a legend, starting with his work with pianist Misha Mengelberg in the Instant Composers Pool (ICP) in the 1960s, a group that has visited Seattle frequently and to great acclaim.
Bennink’s comic theatricality — he sometimes plays the floor and walls as often as the drum kit — should not obscure his consummate command of swing and bop tradition and brilliant improvising in the moment.
Violinist Oliver has collaborated often with ICP, as well as Vancouver-based clarinetist François Houle.
Matthew Shipp and Michael Bisio
8 p.m. Friday, Han. 24, at Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia; $15-$17 (360-753-8585 or www.washingtoncenter.org).
8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Seattle; $5-$15 (www.chapelspace.blogspot.com).
Han Bennink and Mary Oliver
1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, at Cornish College of the Arts, Poncho Concert Hall, 710 E. Roy St., Seattle; free (206-323-1400 or www.cornish.edu).
7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Royal Room, 5000 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle; $5-$15 (206-906-9920 or www.theroyalroomseattle.com).