Glenn Horiuchi | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Glenn Horiuchi 

Jazz has always adapted its tools and elements to telling personal stories; when those stories stem from a largely self-contained ethnic community, all of jazz expands as a result. Pianist Glenn Horiuchi--like his contemporaries Jon Jang and Fred Ho--has become a leader in using jazz to express his identity as an Asian-American. Horiuchi's best-known album, Oxnard Beets (Soul Note), delighted critics with its seamless hybridization of jazz and Asian music, much of it written in fairly traditional structures and all of it featuring the standard sax-piano jazz quartet; there he proved his command of a rangy keyboard style conversant with the rudiments of bebop as well as the vistas of free jazz. His latest album, Kenzo's Vision (Asian Improv Records), offers a significantly different flavor: the distinctively Japanese elements of his music have moved to center stage. The album is dominated by extended, open-ended performances and by an equally extended palette--tuba, violin, percussion instead of traps set, and Asian instruments such as the erhu (a Chinese two-string violin) and samisen (a three-string Japanese lute closely related to the original African banjo). Completing the transformation, Horiuchi himself employs a piano technique heavy on tone clusters and percussive effects. I'd guess that we'll hear something a little closer to the jazz tradition when Horiuchi hits town this weekend, although his Chicago accompanists--drummer Dave Pavkovic, bassist Tatsu Aoki, and a surprising rock-steeped guitarist in Moto Makino--should have little trouble following Horiuchi in any direction. He's never headlined here, but his trip is nonetheless a homecoming; although he lives in LA, collaborates with the Asian Improv aRts collective (based in Berkeley, California), and carries the almost oxymoronic banner of west-coast progressive jazz, he was born in Chicago. Horiuchi's appearance marks the conclusion of the Bop Shop's Asian-American Jazz Players Series. Sunday, 8 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232. Horiuchi will also perform as part of a trio led by bassist Aoki on Tuesday, 9 PM, Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln; 327-6666.

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