Chicago Chamber Musicians | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Chicago Chamber Musicians 

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Throughout his long and prolific career, William Russo has displayed a predilection for mixing jazz and modern classical music in the sort of fusion composer Gunther Schuller called the "third stream." In 1950, Russo joined Stan Kenton's orchestra as a trombonist and arranger; in the classical realm he's written oratorios, song cycles, and a grand opera he still considers his greatest achievement. In the late 60s he developed the "rock cantata," an imaginative kind of musical theater that melded rock with classical and Tin Pan Alley, and in 1968 he got his 15 minutes of fame when the Siegel-Schwall Band and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recorded his Three Pieces for Blues Band and Symphony Orchestra. Now 71, Russo is enjoying a second flush of attention: he's regularly in the public eye as conductor of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, an acclaimed repertory band he revived in the early 90s, and his genre-bending ways, once regarded principally as novelty or annoyance, have finally come into fashion in the classical world. Recently the Chicago Chamber Musicians--a group consisting mostly of CSO members--asked him to write something for their "Music at the Millennium" series; he gave them The Shepherd, a 20-minute piece for clarinet, string quartet, bass, drums, and piano that casts the CSO's principal clarinetist, Larry Combs, in the leading role. The CCM's program also includes Lullaby, George Gershwin's only work for string quartet; Aires Tropicales, for woodwind quintet, by Cuban-born jazz saxist and bandleader Paquito D'Rivera; Alone Together, an inventive solo piece written and performed by Janice Misurell-Mitchell, flutist and cofounder of the local chamber collective CUBE; and two third-stream classics, Martinu's The Kitchen Revue and Milhaud's The Creation of the World. A preconcert chat with Russo starts at 6:30. Monday, 7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago; 312-225-5226 or 312-397-4010. TED SHEN


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