Chicago Underground Orchestra | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Chicago Underground Orchestra 

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In this popular postmodern quintet, cornetist Rob Mazurek shares the front line with trombone and guitar, but the brassy pianoless textures only begin to distinguish this band. Mazurek and guitarist Jeff Parker lead the band in blending aspects of postbop, free improvisation, and acid jazz into a sound track for the century's end. Stitching these idioms together is a tall order, and on the group's debut CD, Playground--recorded for a European label but to be released on Chicago's own Delmark in September--some of the seams still show. But the sprightly rhythm section and coolly conceptualized solo work combine for a strong cocktail, and the wide-ranging compositions serve as a refreshing chaser. Mazurek's crew will play after-fest sessions at the Chopin Theatre (1543 W. Division; 773-278-2210) Thursday through Saturday, August 28 through 30, from 11 PM to 1 AM, in addition to their main-stage appearance Sunday at the festival itself. Also at the Chopin, every Tuesday Mazurek, Parker, and trombonist Sara P. Smith join Tortoise drummers John Herndon and Dan Bitney to form the acid-space picnic called Isotope (set to release a debut CD of its own in November). That will make this Tuesday an especially busy one for several of these players: earlier in the evening, the Underground Orchestra will join forces with half a dozen or so Chicago poets in "Verbs and Vibes," a program at the Chicago Cultural Center (see separate listing) from 5:30 to 7 PM.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Stephan Mazurek.


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