The List: December 23-29, 2010 

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Cyrus Chestnut, Paul Di'Anno, James Chance, the DKV Trio, and more

Cyrus Chestnut

Cyrus Chestnut



>Critic's Choice< Cyrus Chestnut Trio
Sleepovers, Bored Games


>Critic's Choice< Cyrus Chestnut Trio


>Critic's Choice< Cyrus Chestnut Trio
>Critic's Choice< Paul Di'Anno


>Critic's Choice< Cyrus Chestnut Trio


Mustard Plug


>Critic's Choice< James Chance
>Critic's Choice< DKV Trio
>Critic's Choice< Di Wu


CYRUS CHESTNUT TRIO Pianist Cyrus Chestnut emerged as a bandleader in the early 90s as a protege of singer Betty Carter, and at first it seemed certain he'd absorb some of her daring idiosyncrasy, but instead he's evolved into a broadly appealing mainstream player with a wide soulful streak—he doesn't push the envelope like Carter did, but the joy of playing shines in every note he strikes. He grew up steeped in gospel music, playing in church in his native Baltimore, and early in his career he assimilated influences from some of jazz's greatest pianists—the spellbinding lyricism of Art Tatum, the funk of Horace Silver, the drive of Ahmad Jamal, and the swinging snap of Oscar Peterson. His latest album, Journeys (Jazz Legacy Productions), is a sharp trio session with bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Neal Smith, packed with pithy original tunes that already sound like jazz standards. As a live performer Chestnut is eager to please, which results in a mixture of hokum and fireworks that fizzles as often as it dazzles—but if you're looking for a slice of earthy yet elegant postbop, you can't go wrong with Journeys. Douglas and Smith join him for this engagement. See also Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $20. —Peter Margasak

SLEEPOVERS, BORED GAMES I'm a sucker for a song with a title that includes the name of the band who wrote it. Maybe it's the neat tautology—in this respect the obvious world champ is hardcore band Talk Is Poison, who included the track "Talk Is Poison" on their EP Talk Is Poison—or maybe it's just because I think that, like the Monkees and the Banana Splits, every group should have a theme song. So local garage-pop act Sleepovers get points for including "Sleepovers Are Fun" on their new HoZac single, and double points for the fact that it's true either way you read it. Blissfully unconcerned with Serious Art, they make tunes as lightweight as nitrous balloons and just as likely to result in brief, giddy highs.

Bored Games' "Tangled and Confused" might be the best female-fronted power-pop single to come out of Milwaukee since the Shivvers' 1980 cut "Teen Line." That may sound like the faintest praise a critic could possibly damn a band with, but people familiar with the singular pleasures of that Shivvers song—record geeks and midwestern middle-aged former new wavers, basically—know better. "Tangled and Confused" is a little scuffed up by garage-rock grit, but the sweet-as-pie melody and slightly lachrymose performance are worthy of Lesley Gore. The rest of Bored Games' material follows a similar formula, only with more energy and fewer tears.

Sleepovers headline; Bored Games, Slushy, and Tender open. The Victim of Time DJs spin. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8, free with RSVP to —Miles Raymer


CYRUS CHESTNUT TRIO See Thursday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $25.


CYRUS CHESTNUT TRIO See Thursday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $25.

PAUL DI'ANNO Paul Di'Anno sang with Iron Maiden from 1978 through 1981, appearing on the band's first recordings, but he's overshadowed in metal history by his replacement, Bruce Dickinson—and that seems especially unlikely to change now that Bruce flies the custom-painted Iron Maiden 757 that the band charters for tours. Still, Di'Anno was the original voice of "Remember Tomorrow" (he also wrote the lyrics), and he deserves respect for that alone. Since the early 80s he's strung together a checkered but unbroken career with bands like Killers, Battlezone, and Di'Anno, and if you believe his 2002 autobiography, The Beast, he's taken his decades-long globe-trotting stumble through the underbelly of metal while so far gone in a haze of drugs and debauchery he makes Motley Crue look like a bunch of slumming Mormon missionaries. That he's still with us at all is something to celebrate—and the fact that he's maintained a respectable tour schedule this year, with Pittsburgh's Icarus Witch as his opening act and backing band, is a marvel worth at least 15 bucks. Tonight Di'Anno will perform the 1981 Iron Maiden album Killers, some other Maiden material, and maybe a handful of songs from his later bands. He shares the bill with a different kind of vintage metal attraction: Joliet-born Slauter Xstroyes, who released a fantastically weird and proggy power-metal album, Winter Kill, in 1985 and broke up in '89. The recently reanimated version of the band contains several original members, and they've got a new record in the works—judging from the live videos I've seen on YouTube, they haven't lost a damn thing except hair. Di'Anno headlines; Icarus Witch, Slauter Xstroyes, Hell Awaits, and Kradikiss open. 7 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, 2109 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $15, 18+. —Monica Kendrick


CYRUS CHESTNUT TRIO See Thursday. 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $25, $20 for 4 PM show.

MACABRE Who's creepier than serial killers? People obsessed with serial killers, that's who. But at least the guys in Chicago death-metal trio Macabre—at 25 years and counting, possibly the longest-running metal band in the world never to have a lineup change—do their research, and they do far more than I could stand to. Their annual Holidays of Horror concerts also provide a valuable public service during the Official Merriest Time of the Year, allowing people who've been surrounded by Christmas music, relatives, children, and cheer to safely vent their perfectly justifiable aggression. For the first time in eight years, Macabre have recorded new material: the 15-minute EP Human Monsters (Obscene Productions), released this summer, contains three brutal new songs and a cover of Venom's "Countess Bathory" that's well-suited to the season . . . assuming that's not Santa in your chimney. It's a teaser for the full-length Grim Scary Tales, due early next year. Reign Inferno, Bones, and Kastasyde open. 6 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, 2109 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $12. —Monica Kendrick


MUSTARD PLUG The current vogue for all things 90s and alternative hasn't paid off much for third-wave ska, which has yet to live down the dubious distinction of being the first genre to popularize shitty covers of shitty new wave songs and remains closely associated with punny band names and bad fashion choices made worse with shorts. This hardly seems to matter to the unkillable Mustard Plug of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who will probably continue playing punk-influenced ska together long after the rest of us have perished in the aftermath of whatever apocalyptic event gets here first. With their collective ear for catchy parts, their shit-tight performances, and their unceasing desire to satisfy whatever audience they're put in front of, they've got no compelling reason to hang it up before the rest of us do. Deal's Gone Bad, Green Room Rockers, the Pinstripes, and Waste Basket open. 5:45 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $14. —Miles Raymer


JAMES CHANCE Saxophonist and singer James Chance was one of the movers and shakers of the late-70s New York art-music scene called no wave—he fronted the Contortions, banging out atonal avant-funk in a stripped-down punk style, he dated Mars drummer Nancy Arlen, and he lived with Lydia Lunch, briefly playing in her band Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. No wave fizzled out fast, but Chance continued to make music steadily through the mid-80s (sometimes under other names, like James White & the Blacks or the Flaming Demonics), his skronky postpunk palette evolving to include more accessible flavors like lounge, soul, and the jazz he'd moved to New York hoping to play. For the past decade he's been reviving the Contortions in various forms, both with original members and with younger backing bands—including defunct Chicago art-punks the Watchers, who toured with him as the New Contortions. But this isn't a Contortions show or even a full-band gig of any kind: Chance will play solo on sax and piano and spin some of his favorite records. It's not the high-decibel rock that made Chance famous, but opportunities to see him are so rare that every one is worth checking out. DJ Ryan Weinstein opens. 10 PM, Beauty Bar, 1444 W. Chicago, 312-226-8828. —Leor Galil

DKV TRIO For many years the DKV Trio was the most soulful and fiery improvising band in Chicago. When this powerhouse formed in 1994, Ken Vandermark wasn't yet an elder to the local scene—he's the youngest player in DKV by almost a decade—so though he fronted the group with his scalding, bar-walking saxophone, the complex, propulsive drumming of Hamid Drake and the woody, roiling bass of Kent Kessler gave the music much of its gravitas. As the band's members developed new interests and grew busier with other projects, it became increasingly difficult to coordinate their schedules to convene DKV, and about seven years ago it ceased to be a regular group. But Drake, Kessler, and Vandermark know they had something special going, and every so often they get together to do it again. Their three most recent gigs have all been around Christmas or New Year's, and I'm sure the legions of local free-jazz fans who loved the band back in the day won't complain if such reunions blossom into a proper holiday tradition. On the 2002 album Trigonometry (Okka Disk), still DKV's most recent release, the trio interprets durable themes by Don Cherry, Sonny Rollins, Albert Ayler, Duke Ellington, and Joe McPhee, spinning the tunes' pithy melodic kernels into wide-ranging improvisations—and even when playing freely, the band spontaneously creates patterns and licks that serve the same seedlike function. It's no knock on the amazing music these guys have made since DKV that there's still something irresistible about the trio's rare performances—they're both time capsules of the city's free-jazz scene at the turn of the century and ageless demonstrations of high-level musical intuition. John Corbett spins. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Peter Margasak

click to enlarge Di Wu
  • Di Wu

DI WU Pianist Di Wu, playing as part of the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series, offers refuge from the barrage of holiday music with a program of Ravel and Liszt. Born in China, she arrived in the U.S. in '99 for study at the Manhattan School of Music, then moved on to the Curtis Institute and Juilliard. Now 26, she's riding the crest of last year's success at the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, where she was a finalist. Both works on the program suit her extroverted but sensitive and highly communicative style. Each of the five movements of Ravel's Miroirs—"Noctuelles" ("Night Moths"), "Oiseaux Tristes" ("Sad Birds"), "Une Barque sur L'ocean" ("A Boat on the Ocean"), "Alborada del Gracioso" ("Morning Song of the Jester"), and "La Vallee des Cloches" ("The Valley of Bells")—pays tribute to a different member of Les Apaches, the composer's band of avant-garde Parisian artist friends. Sensuous yet meticulously etched, it's a work of wonderfully varied mood and color. Time constraints at these lunch-hour concerts preclude encores, but there won't be any need for one after Franz Liszt's rousing arrangement of the well-known country-fair waltz from Gounod's opera Faust. The piece is technically difficult but artistically simple, and there's only one way to approach it: have as much fun as possible. 12:15 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. —Steve Langendorf

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