John McLean Quintet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

John McLean Quintet 

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If you only know John McLean's guitar work from Patricia Barber's last three discs, you haven't heard the half of it. His liquidy, hypnotic countermelodies do in fact play a vital role in Barber's postjazz aesthetic, but when he roars into overdrive--something he rarely does when he accompanies her--he can electrify a tune or an audience quicker than any jazz musician in Chicago. He grabs your attention with his sweeping, gorgeous, intensely bright tone, and once he has it, he holds it with hard, concise narrative solos that balance street talk and Olympian pronouncement. McLean has been likened to John Scofield, Bill Frisell, and even Jimi Hendrix, but the most telling comparisons have been to David Torn, who in the 80s and 90s recorded under his own name, with saxist Jan Garbarek, and with the co-op trio Polytown. Both Torn and McLean incorporate a thorough and at times stunning command of rock-guitar virtuosity--darker than Scofield, much more visceral than Frisell--into a jazz setting; McLean, however, sculpts his solos with quicker strokes, cutting sharper angles, and his deft chiseling at high volume creates music that has both speed and mass. The quintet he'll unveil here features three old friends--like-minded pianist Karl Montzka, forceful Garbarek-influenced saxist Jim Gailloreto, and redoubtable bassist Larry Kohut--as well as the tremendous drummer Adam Nussbaum, a New York ringer whose nuanced swing has graced recordings by John Abercrombie, Art Farmer, and Jaco Pastorius. These sets will fine-tune the band for a trip to the studio the next day, where McLean will record his first disc as a leader. Wednesday, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.


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