A Band in All Hope | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

A Band in All Hope 

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Cute name, though hard to figure: "Abandon All Hope" emblazoned Dante's entrance to hell, but there's nothing satanic about this trio, and the music has too much order and logic to remotely suggest Pandemonium. In fact, you won't even find much in the way of darkness in this group, because it lacks the deepest of the conventional jazz instruments--the bass. Still, A Band in All Hope don't lack for rhythm, thanks mainly to the highly regarded young drummer Bill Stewart (last heard in Chicago in the groups led by John Scofield and Maceo Parker). Stewart plays like a percussion encyclopedia, grabbing whatever rhythm or fillip fits best from anywhere in jazz and splicing it in with crisp accuracy--coloring the music from a broad tonal palette. And, like Roy Haynes and Tony Williams (two of his early influences), Stewart makes especially difficult beats and patterns sound deceptively easy. Minneapolis pianist Bill Carrothers and New York saxist Anton Denner complete the group, and each of them radiates a similar command and unprepossessing focus. It's been a while since the mainstream jazz context supported a bassless trio--50 years, in fact, since Lester Young made some famous trio recordings in this instrumentation (with Nat "King" Cole and Buddy Rich)--and it places peculiar demands on the drummer and pianist, requiring both to emphasize the lower timbres of their respective instruments. It also gives even the most thickly textured passages a certain airiness: like those endlessly entwined hydroponic plants, the music can get very complicated and still seem to float. A Band in All Hope go that route often, and effectively. Some of the time, though, they downplay their unusual instrumentation to concentrate on imaginative reworkings of familiar standards--such as a New Orleans second-line version of the show tune anthem "Puttin' On the Ritz" or a mournful minor-key take on "Dixie." Saturday, 9 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232. NEIL TESSER

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