Fra Fra Sound | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Fra Fra Sound 

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The Dutch jazz scene, known for its disruptive improvisers and able young beboppers, is also a melting pot for third-world rhythms. In immigrant communities like Amsterdam's Bijlmer, musicians from Curacao, Suriname, and West and South Africa, among other spots, come together to jam. Most of the seven members of Fra Fra Sound--including the band's founder, electric bassist Vincent Henar--hail from Suriname, a former Dutch colony on South America's northern hump whose cultural mix of Native American and African strains (and rhythms) was later inflected by 19th-century waves of immigrants from northern India and Indonesia. Fra Fra have collaborated with musicians from Mali, and often wander into highlife and Afropop territory, where Venezuelan trumpeter Michael Simon may evoke Cape Town's Mongezi Feza. But the band is most inspired by the lopsided rhythms of Suriname's kaseko music. When the septet was here last fall for the World Music Festival, drummer Guno Kramer would accent a leisurely 12-beat pattern on 1, 2, 4, and 5, say, or an 8-beat pattern on 6 and 8, with Henar and hand percussionist Carlo Ulrichi Hoop filling in the cracks. (For the current tour Harvey Wirht, a Surinamese drummer now living in New York who's played with the Either/Orchestra, will sub for Kramer.) Such off-kilter rhythmic groupings give their songs an irresistible loping momentum. That said, Fra Fra's music often--as on some tracks from their new CD, Kultiplex (Pramisi)--sounds like a great beat in search of something to go on top. Tenor saxophonist Efraim Trujillo will dig into the complex rhythms in his solos, but some of the melodies are bland, even smooth-jazzy--a flaw that can drag down the rhythm section, too. When they stick to boisterous kaseko- or township-inspired dance music, however, all is well. Wednesday, October 8, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.

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