Bern Nix | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bern Nix 

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Like his mentor and former employer Ornette Coleman, guitarist Bern Nix cares about few things more than melody. This is most palpable on his lone recording as a leader, Alarms and Excursions (New World), a 1993 trio date with Fred Hopkins on bass and Newman Baker on drums. But once you've picked his beautifully clear tone out of the recordings Coleman's Prime Time made during his 12 years in the band, it's obvious there as well. Like James "Blood" Ulmer, who played electric guitar with Coleman before him, Nix still uses Coleman's harmolodic theory, in which all the players get equal room to improvise on the melody, often simultaneously. On Alarms and Excursions, this means Hopkins both complements and prods Nix as well as taking the lead from time to time--but despite all that activity, Nix's writing and arranging tends to feel more relaxed and sensual than Ulmer's, from his beautiful ballad "Pat's Theme" to his unique harmolodic take on "Just Friends." Nix gigs occasionally in New York, but he hasn't been seen often in these parts--his last local appearance was at HotHouse the year his record came out. For this visit Nix will be joined by bassist Harrison Bankhead, who also played that show, and drummer Tim Mulvenna. Wednesday, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK

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