James Carter/ Cyrus Chestnut/ Leon Parker | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

James Carter/ Cyrus Chestnut/ Leon Parker 

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They won't be playing in the same band--that would make for a trio I'd indeed want to hear--but still, finding reedman James Carter, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, and percussionist Leon Parker on the same stage affords the chance to sample three especially individualistic members of jazz's Generation X. The concert carries the billing "Blues, Roots, Honks, & Moans," which leaves room for everyone to contribute. Count on the well-schooled Chestnut to supply plenty of blues and roots; both contribute to the notable spirituality in his music, which manifests itself in the religious arena--many of Chestnut's compositions have a strong gospel base--as well as the secular. He plays with great energy (which sometimes overwhelms his technique), an engaging mix of refined textures, and a funky 50s soulfulness. Roots--African and South American, as well as southern American--underlie the minimalist drumming and exotic arrangements that Leon Parker has made his signature. Since he first attracted attention as the drummer in Jacky Terrasson's highly focused trio, Parker has released two albums under his own name--both of them satisfyingly devoid of instrumental clutter. And while the subtleties of his band were lost in Grant Park at last year's jazz festival, they should fare better on the enclosed stage. As for the honks & moans, well, the concert does include "J.C. on the Set" (to quote one of his album titles), and James Carter has left no trick unturned in his omnivorous search for slurs, glides, blats, and other sonic sorcery. His unchallenged credentials as a saxophone technician and jazz historian allow him to power his own genre-hopping roller coaster; sometimes he even makes it all fit together as music, rather than a display of postmodernist theory. Friday, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000. Neil Tesser

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos by: F. Scott Schafer, x, and John Sann.

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