Charlie Kohlhase | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Charlie Kohlhase 

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In the various groups he's led, co-led, or just enlivened as a sideman, saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase behaves like a wolf in sheep's clothing. He appears mild mannered at first, most often anchoring a small reed section from behind his baritone sax, but in the middle of a solo he'll nut out into the timbral stratosphere. (And even when he sticks to the written part he does so playfully.) Kohlhase cofounded Boston's quirky Either/Orchestra in 1986, then borrowed some of his colleagues from that band to form his own quintet in 1989, producing several albums that featured both off-base original compositions and sections of full-throated freedom. (I'd start with Research & Development, then move on to Dart Night and Good Deeds--all on Accurate.) That group put three horns up front; in the new version, Kohlhase has gone modern, replacing one horn with Eric Hofbauer's electric guitar. That instrument opens up some different harmonic avenues, but its ringing, single-line voice can also mimic the horn it replaced. Judging from an unreleased in-performance recording, this quintet doesn't yet match the old one for either intensity or whimsy. Still, it sounds just as muscular, though a bit more earnest, and the payoff comes when all the members sail together into full-scale groupthink--regions relatively familiar to followers of Chicago's new-jazz bands (including various Vandermark groups and Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls) but less often navigated by Kohlhase's previous combos. Friday, November 8, 9 PM, and Saturday, November 9, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552.

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

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