Henry Johnson's Organ Express | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Henry Johnson's Organ Express 

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Chicago guitarist Henry Johnson's Organ Express--a tight-as-Scrooge quartet that includes organist Chris Foreman, saxist Peter Roothaan, and drummer Greg Rockingham--is the perfect band for the first week of winter: nothing says heat (let alone sweat) like organ jazz, which took root in the chilly urban soil of Philadelphia, Buffalo, Detroit, and Chicago. For Sunday's New Year's Eve show the Express will be joined by indestructible saxophonist and flutist David "Fathead" Newman. He got his nickname in high school when a music teacher caught him playing from an upside-down page of sheet music, but there's nothing dumb about his trademark blend of jazz and soul, which he perfected in Ray Charles's early bands. Many players with a sound so richly humid and with such a strong command of blues syntax would content themselves to ride waves of pure emotion. But Newman has always delved into the nuts and bolts of jazz composition and improvisation, crafting small masterpieces along the way. The closing night of this run also marks the closing of the current location of the Jazz Showcase, which will move to an as-yet-undetermined new space in the spring. See also Saturday and Sunday. a 9 and 11 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $25.

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