Jewels and Binoculars | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jewels and Binoculars 

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U.S.-born reedist Michael Moore has lived in Amsterdam since the early 1980s, hobnobbing with brainy Dutch improviser-composers like Misha Mengelberg, but he's never lost his love for American rock and roots music, Bob Dylan's in particular. Jazz musicians have covered Dylan tunes since the 60s, when everyone from Stanley Turrentine to Keith Jarrett to Duke Ellington took a shot. Makes sense: Dylan is more committed to vocal improvisation than many jazz singers. But where Duke's take on "Blowin' in the Wind" mocked the threadbare melody, Moore and his accomplices in the Jewels and Binoculars project have dug up some of old man Zimmerman's more shapely lines. On Jewels and Binoculars: The Music of Bob Dylan (released on Moore's Ramboy label), they play overlooked beauties like "Percy's Song," "4th Time Around" (Dylan's parody of "Norwegian Wood"), and New Morning's "Sign on the Window"--all melodies well suited for Moore's touching, Jimmy Giuffre-inspired clarinet. Switching to alto saxophone for "Dear Landlord" and "With God on Our Side," among others, he gives a glimpse of the rude sputtery energy he's brought to Mengelberg's ICP Orchestra and the late Clusone 3, thereby honoring Dylan the surrealist and Dylan the reckless crooner--though he might push that tendency even further live, like the singer in his prime. Moore couldn't do better for mates: bassist Lindsey Horner, another Bobhead, played for years with pianist Myra Melford and on New York's Irish circuit; both experiences prepped him for this gig. Horner takes the simple harmonies as they are, but can row back and forth over a scale and make it sound like a solo, thanks to creative phrasing and precise timing, articulation, and intonation. Amsterdam drummer Michael Vatcher has played with Moore since they were teens in northern California and remains woefully underknown in his homeland. (He's best known over here for bashing alongside Joey Baron on John Zorn's thrash-Ornette Spy vs. Spy; his Dutch credits would fill this page.) Vatcher loves the zillion timbres an extended trap set can produce and can be a weirdly hiccupy timekeeper, testing the parameters of a beat, taking perfectly good phrases and stretching them dangerously out of shape. Like Bob Dylan. It's a free concert. Saturday, October 5, 2 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630.

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