Pierre Dorge & New Jungle Orchestra | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Pierre Dorge & New Jungle Orchestra 

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Let's see now: Danish jazz guitarist, committed to small-group introspection and influenced by Arabic and Balkan music as well as the compositions of Thelonious Monk, visits Africa; he gets hooked on the rhythms and the sweet percussive sound of the kora, a 25-string gourd instrument that sits somewhere between a harp and a lute; he then comes home and assembles a 13-piece band in which to stew this odd assortment of ingredients. On paper the concept of the New Jungle Orchestra sounds almost too goofy to actually work; in practice Dorge has come up with a swinging, witty, and exciting blend of Euro-American and African traditions. The key to Dorge's concept lies in the double meaning of the band's name. It reflects both his love for the music of Duke Ellington--who scored his first successes in 1920s Harlem with the band he called the Jungle Orchestra--and Dorge's own extensive studies in the Gambia region of West Africa. But if you don't also hear the compositional ethos of Frank Zappa, the song forms of Abdullah Ibrahim (aka Dollar Brand), and the absurdist leaps of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, then you just aren't paying attention: all those elements make themselves clear and present in the New Jungle Orchestra's effervescent and irresistible music. And since his last visit Dorge's writing for the band has gained depth and power, especially in the use of his orchestral palette. These days the Jungle contains nine pretty impressive cats, and Dorge will bring the entire complement--featuring saxophonists Jesper Zeuthen and Morten Carlsen, keyboardist Irene Becker, and percussionist-vocalist Ayi Solomon--to Chicago. When they crank up one of their wild and woolly hybrids, nobody sleeps in this jungle. Friday, 9 PM, HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.

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