Jeff Newell's New Trad Octet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jeff Newell's New Trad Octet 

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Here on the tundra, it gets so cold that you stop believing in warm weather anywhere: not even the impending Mardi Gras in a city some 60 degrees warmer can distract most of us from the local misery. Nonetheless, altoist Jeff Newell has looked beyond the high-pressure fronts for this project, an eight-piece band that borrows heavily from the New Orleans brass-band tradition. Like the Crescent City's famous Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Newell applies the modified march beats of New Orleans street music to a lot of songs that came a good deal later, from Ellington's "Caravan" to Charlie Parker's "Bongo Beep." But the New Trad Octet, which also stars trumpeter Orbert Davis and trombonist Paul McKee, is even more of an experiment in hybridization. It combines a thoroughly modern rhythm section--featuring piano, guitar, and string bass, none of which exist in the actual brass bands--with Dan Anderson's nimble work on the tuba (which in traditional bands would supply the music's bass lines all by itself). Similarly, Rick Vitek's bouncy evocation of the New Orleans rhythms allows more conventional swing patterns to flow in and out, and Newell's flavorful arrangements still manage to accommodate his own skittering lines and hard-edged harmonies--which have a lot more to do with the progressive New Orleans sound exemplified by Branford Marsalis and Donald Harrison than with the brass-band tradition. It's a new band, and it has yet to fully polish the concept, but it certainly doesn't lack for fun. Tuesday, 10 PM, Quicksilver, 3855 N. Lincoln; 327-1223. Next Saturday, February 19, 10 PM and midnight, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

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