Cinematic Orchestra | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Cinematic Orchestra 

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The "astral jazz" of the early 70s has a lot to answer for, from the would-be cosmic meanderings of latter-day drum 'n' bass (4hero's Two Pages, the bulk of Good Looking Records' output) to the tepid "broken beat" of groups like Jazzanova. But Jason Swinscoe, the mastermind behind London downtempo troupe the Cinematic Orchestra, avoids most of the pitfalls of Alice Coltrane worship by augmenting his lush textures with understated grooves and an icy demeanor that thaws with repeated contact. On 1999's Motion, Swinscoe started by creating rhythm loops, then had the orchestra (led by saxophonist and pianist Tom Chant, bassist Phil France, and drummer Daniel Howard) play over them, and finally chopped the resulting improvisations into new compositions--a technique much like the one used by Teo Macero on some of Miles Davis's albums. Swinscoe followed the same process for some of last year's Every Day as well, but most of that disc's material was adapted from his own through-composed score for Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera. Ninja Tune has just issued the CD of the score, and it's interesting to hear how the songs evolved from their movie versions to the forms they take on Every Day. On the sound track, "The Awakening of a Woman (Burnout)" is a loping ten-minute groove whose lovely three-note horn line ends up being rather static; on Every Day, where the tune's simply titled "Burnout," the extra touches (a growling, scat-sung female vocal, a warping synth part that runs throughout) really make the song. On the other hand, "Evolution" actually sounds better in Movie Camera's sparer version. The sound track also features an instrumental cover of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's "Theme de Yoyo," from the 1970 French movie Les stances a Sophie; the original was sung by Fontella Bass, who's the featured vocalist on Every Day's opening song, "All That You Give." Saturday, June 28, 10 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408.


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