Arlington Heights native and saxophonist Brian Krock leads a Chicago-based lineup of his big band Big Heart Machine | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Arlington Heights native and saxophonist Brian Krock leads a Chicago-based lineup of his big band Big Heart Machine 

click to enlarge Brian Krock

Brian Krock

Desmond White

It’s no secret that in today’s world running a big band is a daunting prospect. It’s difficult enough to wrangle 18 musicians together to perform, let alone rehearse complex, harrowing scores, not to mention finding venues with stages large enough to fit the entire ensemble. But saxophonist and composer Brian Krock, a 29-year-old Arlington Heights native, had his sights set on putting together such a group when he first moved to New York nearly a decade ago. At age 20, he’d noticed Darcy James Argue, leader of the richly orchestrated, rhythmically nimble big band Secret Society, on a New York subway and approached him to express his admiration. That interaction planted the seeds of a mentoring relationship that has continued to endure. A couple weeks ago Krock dropped the Argue-produced self-titled debut of his big band, Big Heart Machine, on the Outside in Music label. Krock’s sumptuous arrangements—which are vividly brought to life by conductor Miho Hazami—apply the sound, timbre, and improvisational ethos of a big band to tricky, multipartite compositions that breathlessly wend their way through shifting landscapes that are sometimes ethereal, sometimes muscular, but always rigorously plotted. Krock grew up listening to prog-rock bands such as Rush, Yes, and Porcupine Tree, and there’s no missing that influence in his ensemble. It’s especially clear in the extroverted, rock-driven playing of Finnish guitarist Olli Hirvonen—whose solo on “Steep Ravine,” in the second movement of the suite Tamalpais, screams and soars more than it swings. But the brilliance of the contrapuntal horn charts tempers that excess with its lockstep navigation and shifting densities. Tonight Krock returns home to present the music with an all-Chicago lineup including heavy hitters such as reedists Rajiv Halim and Dustin Laurenzi, trumpeter Tito Carrillo, and pianist Rob Clearfield.   v

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