For this week's paper I wrote about a new record by reedist Matt Bauder and his New York-based band White Blue Yellow & Clouds. You wouldn't know it from that disc--a warped salute to doo-wop, pop-soul, and the Beach Boys--but Bauder is one of the most exciting players to emerge from Chicago’s dynamic jazz and improvised-music community. In the two years he spent here before heading to Wesleyan for grad school back in 2001, he consistently demonstrated killer chops and impeccable taste both as an improviser and as a conceptualist, finding thrilling ways to use arrangement, composition, and electronic production to forge something new. His 2003 album Weary Already of the Way (482 Music) contains the most successful electronic manipulations of acoustic long tones I've ever heard.
Last spring Memorize the Sky--Bauder's trio with longtime cohorts Zach Wallace and Aaron Siegel--released a gorgeous self-titled album on 482 Music. Although improvisation is crucial to the music, there are no solos--the spontaneity is all in service to the overall ensemble sound, a slow-moving, hovering soundscape that pulses at a luxuriant crawl. The focus is on textural detail: Wallace sometimes lets a single bass snap unfurl until the vibrations fall back into silence, as he does on "Field of Ice"; Siegel, who devoted his terrific solo album The Cabinet (Longbox) to unconventional percussive techniques, rubs, shakes, and caresses objects more than he beats them; and Bauder employs subtle, shimmering long tones and percussive tongue tricks (a la Mats Gustafsson), falling back on more traditional saxophone or clarinet articulation only as a secondary measure. The trio displays an astonishing intuitive connection, moving as a single unit and dissolving the arbitrary distinctions between experimental music, free improvisation, and sound art.
Bauder also turns up on the new Exploding Star Orchestra album with Bill Dixon that Miles Raymer wrote about last week, as well as the recent Every Morning, a History (Peacock), a composition-oriented album under Siegel's name. The first of the two pieces, "A Diminished Thing," is a sparse, somber solo by pianist Emily Manzo, who was in town a few weeks back with Christy & Emily and Till by Turning. The second piece, the title track, covers similar territory with a spindly chamber quartet--Bauder on clarinet, Jessica Pavone on viola, Leah Paul on flute, Siegel on vibraphone. It moves at a leisurely pace, its pungent harmonies hanging in the air and its jagged turns fostering an ominous tension. What all this demonstrates to me is that old-fashioned ideas about musical purity are dissolving, maybe for good--there doesn't seem to be a pendulum swing coming to take things back in the other direction. Musicians have always listened to all kinds of stuff, but it's no longer controversial when they explore disparate avenues in their own work.
Speeq, Or--Live in Strasbourg (Red Note)
China, Simulacro (Candeeiro)
Morton Feldman, Three Voices (Col Legno)
Daouda Dembele, Daouda Dembele (Yaala Yaala)
Adams also seems to enjoy not only watching greatness work, but also seeing it fail. Carlisle thinks the central message of Halberstam's Vietnam classic appeals to Adams: that people incredibly well-educated and well-intentioned could be so flat-out wrong about something. It's a helpful notion to keep in mind about the conventional-wisdom-obsessed world of football, where pedigree and tradition dictate many overly conservative decisions.
From a great profile of Ernie Adams, a former student manager of the Northwestern football team who's now the Patriots' secret genius-in-residence.
After you read the three featured reviews in this week's Food & Drink don't skip over the listings, where we have 11 other brand-new ones.
I took a generally cranky view of Bbop Lounge, Thai Urban Kitchen, Mythos, Spertus Cafe, and the Korean fried chicken chain Cheogajip. David Hammond weighed in on Connoisseur, Kudo Sushi, and the cartoonishly giant margaritas at the Rusty Armadillo. Chicagoland's Whet Moser took one for the team at Hyde Park's Chant. Restaurants editor Kate Schmidt felt like a Von Trapp at the Rogers Park Uncommon Ground, and Food Chain calendetrix Julia Thiel loved her waiter at Violet.
It's still too soon to say much about Risque Cafe, Rustik, Takashi, Crisp, Smokeshack, Con Sabor Cuba, or Tony Hu's double Laos (Beijing and Shanghai). We'll deal with those next month.
Acquisitions for the Art Institute's modern wing are rolling in, the biggest (literally) of which is Charles Ray's Hinoki. Ray, a Chicago native, in collaboration with a team of Japanese craftsmen, constructed an exact copy of a 31-foot-long piece of driftwood from rare hinoki cypress. ("Exact" is sort of a relative term and speaks in some part to the nature of the project, but it's however much exactness several years of reconstruction will get you.)
diaTXT has an interesting interview with the master woodcarver Yuboku Mukoyoshi, who oversaw the project and who has a craftsman's take on it. For super-hi-res pics, go here, scroll down, and click through.
You gotta love the Sun-Times -- God help us all if it goes out of business.
On page seven of today's edition the shameless matter-of-fact corruption of everyday life in Chicago is clearly laid out for anyone to see.
On the right side of the page is a small article by Tim Novak about the $29,000-a-year property tax break that Board of Review commissioners Joe Berrios, Brendhan Houlihan and Larry Rogers gave to Michael Tadin. If you recall, Tadin's the City Hall insider whose trucking company picked up several million dollars in contracts from the notorious Hired Truck program. (By the way, so much for Berrios being the only impediment to reform on that three-person board.) By lowering the assessment on Tadin's Gold Coast mansion, Berrios, Houhlihan and Rogers gave him about $90,000 in property tax savings until the next reassessment in 2009, which the rest of us suckers have to absorb. Thanks, fellas.
To the left of the Tadin story is an update by Novak on the Park Grill (PDF)--aka the "clout cafe"--which is run by Matthew O'Malley, who fathered a child by Laura Foxgrover, the Park District concessions czarina who helped give him the rights to run the only restaurant in Millennium Park. (Personally, it's my favorite scandal of the Daley years). Bottom line on the update: the restaurant's bringing in about $12 million a year and still not paying any property taxes, thanks to the sweetheart deal it got from the Park District.
Finally, on the bottom of the page is a list put together by Chris Fusco of who in Tony Rezko's empire of pals, aides, and relatives gave what to Barack Obama's senate campaign.
But don't worry, people. What do Daley's lackies and flaks always tell us? Oh, yes -- it's worse in Detroit.
Concerned citizens, political junkies, lost souls, and everyone else who happens upon this blog: Please note that our new issue includes a package of stories about some of the key races in next week's primaries. As always, your feedback is welcome; as precedent has established, reason is encouraged but not expected.
The original chicagocrime.org (which has been effectively replaced by EveryBlock) is joining the server invisible, but it will have a brief afterlife at MoMA as part of Design and the Elastic Mind, alongside The Meat of Tomorrow, the moving work of Jonathan Harris, and more. There's also a book. In other news, Imaging by Numbers: A Historical View of the Computer Print is open at Northwestern's Block Museum, which features the work of the first computer illustrator, Ben Laposky, whom Fred Camper wrote about in 2006. Laposky's essay on his "oscillons" is here.
RSVP today for a "paczki fun day" at Delightful Pastries, Sunday from 2-3:30 PM. Participants can fry, glaze, and fill their Polish doughnuts with fillings including plum butter, rose petal jelly, raspberry, boozy custard, and whipped cream. $15.
The Grand Chefs Gala Benefit for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, this Friday from 6 PM to midnight, has a safari theme this year. Some of Chicago's best chefs will prepare hors d'oeuvres, a four-course dinner, and desserts; there will also be live and silent auctions, a DJ, dancing, and cocktails, as well as the presentation of the Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence. Tickets are $400 per person, but $50 will get you into just the after-party, which starts at 10 and offers desserts, dancing, and an open bar.
Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. hosts its annual Comparative Bordeaux Tasting Friday from 6:30-8 PM at the Newberry Library. They'll be comparing the 1995 and 1996 vintages from all five first-growth chateaux (Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild, Latour, Haut-Brion, and Lafite-Rothschild), plus 15 "super seconds." $275. There's also a wine auction at Tru Saturday starting at 9 AM; lunch is available for $75.
Saturday at 10 AM, historian Richard Lytle will give a talk titled George H. Hammond and Marcus M. Towle: Forgotten Pioneers of the Beef Packing Industry, about two Indiana business partners who owned a slaughterhouse and helped introduce refrigerated rail cars for transporting meat in the mid nineteenth century. It's at Kendall College, 900 N. Branch, and costs $2 (free for Kendall students). Presented by the Chicago Foodways Roundtable.
An Edible Art Workshop at the MCA Saturday from 1-4 PM, led by artist and pastry chef Tara Strickstein, focuses on "transforming the edible into the aesthetic." Strickstein will discuss artists like Janine Antoni, who makes sculptures from lard and chocolate, and Vik Muniz, who uses sugar, chocolate syrup, peanut butter, and jelly to re-create paintings by the likes of Leonardo and Monet. Participants can also make their own art from materials including candies, bread, sugar, and chocolate syrup. Reservations required. $45.
ChicaGourmets' Art, Food, and a Play (PDF) Saturday at 12:30 PM offers salads, gourmet sandwiches, brownies, and wine along with a viewing of paintings by students at the Palette and Chisel gallery and a performance by Shaw Chicago of The Cassilis Engagement, about a proper British mother who disapproves of her son's fiancee, next door at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. 708-383-7543, $50.
Local nonprofit Purple Asparagus holds its first event for Project Dine Out, designed to help parents eat out with their kids, Tuesday from 5:30-8:30 PM at May Street Market. Chef Alex Cheswick will prepare a four-course dinner with wine pairings and Olivia Gerasole of Spatulatta will demonstrate a recipe from her new cookbook. $65 for adults, $25 for kids under 11.
Fat Cat has a Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday bash on (big surprise) Tuesday, starting at 4 PM and going until 2 AM. An all-you-can-eat buffet ($9.95) features crawfish boil, oyster po'boys, jambalaya, and king cake; there's also a costume contest. Some of the proceeds will benefit Make It Right, Brad Pitt's project to rebuild the lower Ninth Ward community destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The Wine Discount Center features its new wines for February at its First Look Tasting Wednesday from 6:30-8 PM. The 35 to 40 on offer include La Posta’s 2006 Cocina malbec-bonarda-syrah blend from Argentina, Selvapiana’s 2005 Chianti Rufina, Mumm’s Carte Classique champagne, and Beckman’s 2005 Santa Ynez Valley cabernet sauvignon. Reservations required. $10.