Diane Delin | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Diane Delin 

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DIANE DELIN

The classical associations of the violin only go so far in explaining its rarity in jazz. The instrument is widely considered the hardest to learn--at least, the hardest to learn well enough to play in public--and in a music dependent on improvisation, which in turn depends on virtuosity, the winnowing process becomes accordingly harsher than it would be for, say, saxophonists. That's the main reason that a list of great jazz violinists would barely stuff an F hole. Even the list of good ones comes up pretty short--but Diane Delin reserved her spot on it in the 80s, almost as soon as she hit the scene. She plays with a strong, sure tone, thoughtful, engaging lines, and enough command of modern jazz harmony to take zingy excursions from a tune's main melody. And even though the instrument's translucent timbre makes it difficult for most violinists to generate much in the way of rhythmic heat, Delin can on occasion light a real fire under both a band and an audience. (Here she'll have help from a rock-solid rhythm section led by Dennis Luxion, who's an imaginative colorist on piano, bassist Michael Arnopol, and the aptly named drummer Tom Hipskin.) Since she works in a town that enjoys the legerdemain of Johnny Frigo, she brooks comparison with him, but she shouldn't have to: Delin's style is much less defined by glittering leaps and rococo ornamentation than Frigo's swing-era wizardry. These days Delin concentrates less on the usual jazz standards and popular classics and more on her own compositions, written in a "contemporary" vein; this jury's still out on those. She hasn't played many jazz gigs in recent years, a casualty of the old battle between commerce and art, so this engagement at the Metropole is that much more alluring--despite the tendency of hotel patrons to wander in and use the music as a sound track for their often overloud discussions. Tuesday through next Saturday, August 22, Metropole Room, Fairmont Hotel, Illinois Center, 200 N. Columbus; 312-565-7444. NEIL TESSER

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

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