Guitar Madness | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Guitar Madness 

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This month guitarist John McLean owns the Bop Shop stage from late each Friday till early Saturday: every week he hosts a different guest guitarist, and the next two should provide some serious fun. Ernie Denov, who performs this week, brings real jazz chops to his more visible rock work (A Band of Jimmies); on the other hand, he uses the pulsar energy of rock to light up his jazz gigs (including his frequent appearances with the popular pan-Latin band Chevere). Denov plays with a tough, beveled tone and can bend a note with the best of them; at times he brings to mind those classic albums of instrumental rock recorded by Jeff Beck in the mid-70s (no small praise). Denov's style offers an effective foil to the crisp intensity and deep-focus detail that mark McLean's own playing. So does next week's ringer, Jeff Parker, and for some of the same reasons. But Parker--who distinguishes himself on the new album by Ernest Dawkins and the New Horizons Ensemble (Chicago Now, on Silkheart Records)--has a far different style from that of Denov. He combines a relatively light sound with airier harmonies, and he uses a fair share of notes from outside the chord--along with the occasional excursion into a sidereal rhythmic universe--to traverse the music. Such attributes have made Parker a rising star within the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and in fact he's one of those who represent the organization's future. On a number of occasions, he has revealed a sensitivity and adeptness within mainstream contexts as well. He'll probably stake out some ground between those two boundaries--that would give him the springboard to riff around the meaty complexities of McLean's artistic passion. As for the name of this series: ever since Sonny Rollins invited John Coltrane to join him on a tune called "Tenor Madness," jazz musicians have applied the image of lunacy to the pairings of like instruments. But they've rarely had so altruistic a purpose: both evenings will benefit the Toys for Tots program administered by the U.S. Marine Corps. (Bring a Christmas toy and get half off the cover charge.) McLean and Denov play tonight, and McLean and Parker play next Friday, December 22; both gigs start at 11 PM. Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

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