Since 2015, Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio has been the host of Option, a series of intimate concerts of improvised music. Featuring an uncommonly wide range of players representing virtually all haunts of free music, the series has fostered not only an important exchange of ideas in musical form, but it has also promoted literal conversation about the music, usually substituting a dialogue with the musician or musicians for the requisite second set. In 2018, the series was funded by a consortium of major international art galleries, each of whom underwrote a month of events. As is always the case at ESS, the music was recorded, and in the end an astonishing archive of tapes was produced, from which 15 tracks were selected and programmed onto two CDs for Option 1, the first compilation of the series. The artists featured on the program are Susan Alcorn (lap steel guitarist and winner of the 2018 Instant Award in Improvised Music), the Chicago-based team of Lou Mallozzi & Douglas Ewart, veteran percussionist Gerry Hemingway, Norwegian pianist Håvard Wiik, Luke Stewart, Louise Dam Eckardt Jensen & Kent Kessler, trumpeter Greg Kelley, Ben Goldberg & Michael Coleman, Bonnie Jones, the impossible piano of Kris Davis, Wayne Horvitz & Sara Schoenbeck, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, Chattanooga’s own LaDonna Smith, Booker Stardrum & Beth McDonald & Dave Rempis, and young guitar sensation Sandy Ewen. By turns haunting, abrasive, lyrical, absurd, bracing, and hilarious, Option 1 in fact offers many different options – a smorgasbord of alternatives representing the exciting, multifaceted reality of free music in its contemporary manifestation.