Ray Anderson Quartet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ray Anderson Quartet 

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Ray Anderson doesn't mess around. Along with his contemporary George Lewis, Anderson has built upon the styles of such pioneering jazz trombonists as Jimmy Knepper and Albert Mangelsdorff to literally remake the instrument, from something growling and klutzy to something fleet but nonetheless ferocious. What's more, he's got himself one great band, with the mesmerizing Pheeroan Ak Laff on drums, and Mark Dresser's fluid bass lines wrapping up the loose ends; neither of these two is as well known as he should be, and both can leave the unsuspecting listener agog in admiring consternation. But in this regard neither of them tops Anderson himself, who brings to his instrument a dizzying array of imaginative noises, colors, and textures. (Yes, he can play chords on the trombone.) Rather than overwhelming his art, though, these devices are integral to his anything-can-happen musicality. Anderson has appeared in Chicago with Anthony Braxton, the George Gruntz Concert Band, and the cooperatively led trio BassDrumBone, but this weekend marks the debut of a band bearing his name; that in itself would make the evening an Event. The real draw, though, remains the open-armed exuberance of Ray Anderson's music; in it, the most dramatic improvisational skills rub shoulders with a raucous humor, telescoping jazz's origins and future into a single body of work. Saturday, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.

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