Charlie Kohlase Quintet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Charlie Kohlase Quintet 

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As long as Charlie Kohlhase can find work, you know that jazz--even in the neo-classic age--still has room for uncowed iconoclasm and unrepentant wit. Kohlhase, a baritone and alto saxist, has built his spiffy quintet like a classic Jaguar, with fluid lines suitable for virtually any situation. The band doesn't have a pianist, but it does carry three horn players, who play a total of six instruments. As a result Kohlhase can extract big vibrant chords in his writing. Then he can sit back and watch the solo sections turn into pianoless trios (horn, bass, and drums) that explode with the immediacy of free jazz--at least until Kohlhase brings the other horns in for madman riffs or polyphonic commentary. Kohlhase uses this flexibility to tap stylistic models ranging from the big-band era to the avant-garde. That means that while the band's stock-in-trade remains the leader's strongly stamped compositions--which gain further definition from the clean, breezy drumming of Matt Wilson--Kohlhase can readily settle into a pure energy groove or a tempoless tone poem with undeniable conviction. (This same wide-as-the-outdoors approach characterizes the Either/Orchestra of Boston, which counts Kohlhase as a founding member, and from which he took three of his four sidemen.) The band's dynamic new album, Dart Night (coming on Accurate Records in April), ties up its disparate array of techniques and tactics better than its previous two recordings. It also provides richer rewards than the quintet's last visit to Chicago, in which the formal and the free wings of Kohlhase's music seemed to tug against each other. This band's gift lies in the ability to move with flowing stealth from one stylistic base to another, all but obliterating the walls in between. That Kohlhase and company can do it with both humor and swing makes for performances of intense surprise and the occasional delightful shock. Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Hilliard.

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