Fire of Space | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Fire of Space 

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Jordan McLean may fill the first-trumpet chair in Antibalas, but his time in the spotlight with North America's premier Afrobeat revival orchestra is necessarily limited--when you're part of an egalitarian 17-piece collective, you have to wait your turn. So he really smokes when he steps to the front of his jazz band Fire of Space, a septet with three other horns (all of whom play with him in Antibalas). Not that he's a ball hog: reedist Michael Herbst takes the first solo on "Tribute to Forgotten Worlds," the tune that opens the group's debut CD, The Visit (Agni), and the three-minute excursion is a corker. Herbst starts out by extracting brief, rhythmic phrases from drummer Geoff (son of Herbie) Mann's loose, fleet groove, then snakes progressively longer, more complex lines through the obstacle course laid out by Shoko Nagai's staccato piano accompaniment. Next comes something you'll never hear from Antibalas: the groove drops out completely to make room for a sweetly mournful bowed statement from bassist Tom Abbs. The band's intricate horn voicings and rushing, broken tempos on the next tune, "One Who Harkened," evoke Sun Ra's "The Shadow World," but elsewhere Fire of Space showcases the same unyielding beats and towering horn charts as its parent band. Members have played Chicago before with Sabir Mateen, Jemeel Moondoc, and, of course, Antibalas, but this is the group's first time here. Thursday, April 10, 9:30 PM, 3030, 3030 W. Cortland; 773-862-3616. Friday, April 11, 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 21281/2 S. Indiana; 312-791-9050. Saturday, April 12, 1 PM, Jazz Record Mart, 444 N. Wabash; 312-222-1467.

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