Ann Dyer | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ann Dyer 

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San Francisco vocalist Ann Dyer is nothing if not audacious. For the first album by her band, No Good Time Fairies (named for an obscure tune by M-Base saxophonist Steve Coleman), she concocted stark revisions of standards ("I'll Remember April") and wrote lyrics to compositions by McCoy Tyner and Wayne Shorter. And for her newly released follow-up, she's taken on a musical and cultural Goliath: on Revolver (Premonition), subtitled A New Spin, she covers 9 of the 14 tunes from the Beatles' 1966 album, including "Taxman," "Eleanor Rigby," and "She Said She Said." Her performances range from postmodern cabaret to vivid drum 'n' bass, but though she strips the songs of their iconic sound, she usually maintains their essence. Dyer has a malleable, suede-and-burgundy voice; she swoops, yodels, and engages in impassioned Sprechgesang a la Sheila Jordan, but can also croon with the best of them. This gives her departures extra weight--you have to believe that a sour note or muted timbre is a choice, not an accident. Having said all that, however, I admire the new disc more than I like it. Dyer's experimentation is consistently fascinating, but doesn't always succeed; though I respect her musical intelligence, I find some of her choices (as both vocalist and arranger) genuinely off-putting. True to form, she's taking another chance with the band she brings to Chicago: of the seven members of No Good Time Fairies, only bassist John Shifflett and drummer Jason Lewis will accompany her here; the stripped-down lineup should put a new spin on A New Spin. Thursday, May 4, 7:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. NEIL TESSER


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