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Friday, December 9, 2016

Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt visits Chicago with one of his best bands

Posted By on 12.09.16 at 02:00 PM

Jeremy Pelt - SALLY PRITCHARD
  • Sally Pritchard
  • Jeremy Pelt

Jeremy Pelt
has firmly established himself as one of the finest mainstream trumpeters in jazz, zigzagging among varied projects but retaining a strong identity. His latest recording, High Art (HighNote), is billed to the Power Quintet, a skilled combo that works within the tradition, summoning the spirit of classic 50s hard bop but adding a measured contemporary sheen. Joined by pianist and longtime colleague Danny Grissett, liquid-toned vibist Steve Nelson, redoubtable bassist Peter Washington, and casually versatile drummer Bill Stewart, Pelt complements the music's brisk swing with his melodic fluidity and pure, plush tone.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A clinic in the effective use of hand claps from the Sonics

Posted By on 12.06.16 at 12:00 PM

The Sonics in their 1960s heyday - JINI DELLACIO
  • Jini Dellacio
  • The Sonics in their 1960s heyday

The other night I was talking to a friend about the way a properly deployed hand-clap pattern can make a good pop or rock song great. There are countless gems out there with well-placed claps—"Hey Ya!" by Outkast, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles, "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel—but the tune I always turn to first to make this point is the 1966 stomper "Shot Down" by Seattle protopunks the Sonics. It deploys staccato sixteenth-note claps synchronized perfectly with an insistent note hammered out on a broken-down piano. When the chorus charges in, the rhythm shifts and the claps dramatically slow down into quarter notes, emphasizing a classic rock 'n' roll swing. It never gets tired, and it's today's 12 O'Clock Track.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Remembering a song of heartbreak by Alejandro Escovedo

Posted By on 11.22.16 at 12:00 PM

Alejandro Escovedo - NANCY RANKIN ESCOVEDO
  • Nancy Rankin Escovedo
  • Alejandro Escovedo

I missed the concert that Alejandro Escovedo played at FitzGerald's last week, where he was supporting his excellent new album, the hard-rocking, raucous Burn Something Beautiful (Fantasy). Yesterday, while flipping through some old CDs, I came across a much earlier Escovedo record—his second solo album, 1993's Thirteen Years—which reflects a very different side of his aesthetic. Back then Escovedo was transforming the rude power of protopunk into something even more devastating with the unlikely addition of chamber-music-style strings. He famously tackled the Stooges classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog" that way, but for me his own song "Baby's Got New Plans" delivers more emotional punch.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

MusicNow celebrates the legacy of Steve Reich tonight at the Harris Theater

Posted By on 11.21.16 at 02:00 PM

Steve Reich - JAY BLAKESBERG
  • Jay Blakesberg
  • Steve Reich

On October 3, influential American composer Steve Reich turned 80, and celebrations of that milestone seem certain to continue for the next 11 months. Reich is one of the key architects of minimalism, along with Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and Philip Glass, and he's enjoyed perhaps the most successful and rewarding career, consistently finding new ways to approach the deceptively simple constructs at the root of his music. Tonight the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's MusicNow series at the Harris Theater presents three Reich pieces composed between 1988 and 2007. The concert is cohosted by Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music, which awarded Reich the Nemmers Prize in Music Composition earlier this year and will host a couple of residencies by him in 2017.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Norwegian piano trio Moskus graduates from ‘distinctive’ to ‘unique’ on its third album

Posted By on 11.18.16 at 02:00 PM

Moskus - JOHN HUGHES
  • John Hughes
  • Moskus

Last year I became a big fan of Norwegian piano trio Moskus on the strength of its second album, Mestertyven, released in 2014. When I wrote about the record in August 2015, I noted that the group had just finished making a new album and that I couldn't wait to hear it. It came out early this year, but I guess I've been distracted—I only got around to playing it this week, and now I regret the months I could've been listening to it and wasn't. On Ulv Ulv (Hubro) Moskus carries on the improvisatory approach it adopted for Mestertyven, ditching compositions for pure spontaneity.

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Darcy James Argue's new Real Enemies reflects on paranoia in American politics

Posted By on 11.11.16 at 12:30 PM

Darcy James Argue - LINDSAY BEYERSTEIN
  • Lindsay Beyerstein
  • Darcy James Argue

It's hard not to hear Real Enemies (New Amsterdam), the recent album by Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, in a new light this week. The third album from the ambitious New York composer and bandleader uses the idea of conspiracy theories as a conceptual framework, examining the tendency of the postwar U.S. to embrace them to explain political, social, and economic conditions and movements. There's been no shortage of fresh conspiracy theories during this election season, applied to both campaigns—the fanciful notion that the liberal media were colluding to cripple Trump, for instance, or the slightly more plausible claim that the DNC worked to discredit Bernie Sanders during the primaries. I'm generally dismissive of conspiracy theories, but this dispiriting week has made me fear the forces at work in American society.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Clear out your brain with Schnellertollermeier’s ‘brutal jazz’

Posted By on 11.08.16 at 12:00 PM

Schnellertollermeir - CAMILLO PARAVICINI
  • Camillo Paravicini
  • Schnellertollermeir

I don't know anyone who isn't looking forward to the end of this grueling, demoralizing election campaign. I'm certain that its ugliness will leave a toxic residue for a long time no matter who wins, but assuming the race is called tonight, it'll be cathartic for at least half the people who bothered to vote. I'll probably be cowering on my couch from 8 PM onward, but I also feel a yearning to be out in the world, among like-minded, generous souls. I've been thinking it might be restorative to see a concert, especially by musicians who aren't from the U.S.—it might not be possible to find a neutral setting tonight, but I'm guessing foreigners would be less likely to politicize their performances. If you can make it out for Schnellertollermeier, a Swiss instrumental trio making their local debut tonight at the Whistler, I recommend you give it a shot. (They'll end their tour back in Chicago on Sunday, November 20, at the Hungry Brain.) If nothing else, these guys' music ought to clear out your head.

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Trumpeter Duane Eubanks sparkles on a lean, unfussy trio recording

Posted By on 11.04.16 at 02:00 PM

Dezron Douglas, Duane Eubanks, Eric McPherson - JIMMY KATZ
  • Jimmy Katz
  • Dezron Douglas, Duane Eubanks, Eric McPherson

More often than not, I'm obliged to organize my listening around release dates and live performances—I spend time with music that I'm writing about, either to preview a show or review a new album. The problem with this is that it leaves too few hours to check out stuff that I don't have a pressing reason to get to. Recently I found myself with a chance to grab something that was released back in May and dig into it, and I'm very glad I did. The DE3 album Live at Maxwell's (Sunnyside) was culled from a pair of sessions recorded without an audience at Steve Maxwell's Drum Shop in New York (no relation to the defunct Hoboken rock club). DE3, as its name suggests, is a killer trio led by trumpeter Duane Eubanks; his rhythm section consists of drummer Eric McPherson and bassist Dezron Douglas.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

John Prine shares his love for classic country with a second album of duets

Posted By on 11.01.16 at 12:00 PM

John Prine - JOSH BRITT
  • Josh Britt
  • John Prine

John Prine
remains one of the greatest songwriters the U.S. has ever produced, but he's not a poet—the marriage of melody and words is integral to his art. That also help explain why he takes occasional detours to make albums of songs by other people. For Better, or Worse (Oh Boy), released in September, is a kind of sequel to his wonderful 1999 record In Spite of Ourselves—both consist of duets with a slew of strong female singers. As serious as Prine is about his own work, he also adores the ancestral music that's helped shape him—especially country.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Bassist John Lindberg drops two new trio albums

Posted By on 10.28.16 at 01:26 PM


In my preview of this weekend's performances by trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith at Constellation, I discussed how active he's been of late, dropping strong new work at a prodigious rate. But his partner in Celestial Weather, the project he brings to town, bassist John Lindberg, has also been getting busy, releasing new albums by a pair of very different-sounding trios. Lindberg remains best known for his invaluable work alongside Anthony Braxton during the 70s and 80s and as a founding member of the String Trio of New York, a combo that forged a special brand of chamber jazz, but these new efforts reinforce an easy versatility in his abilities.

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Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre
December 09
Performing Arts
La Gringa Urban Theater Company
November 12

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