Ray Anderson's Pocket Brass Band | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ray Anderson's Pocket Brass Band 

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RAY ANDERSON'S POCKET BRASS BAND

In this quartet you get one drummer and enough brass tubing for a block of Bucktown rehabs: a tuba handles the lines normally played by a string bass, thus forming a pianoless rhythm section with the drummer, which in turn allows a trumpet and a trombone to strut and tailgate up front. I don't know of any other modern jazz band with this instrumentation. Yet on second glance, it seems a good deal less radical--especially if you know that trombonist Ray Anderson has always drawn on the New Orleans brass bands of jazz antiquity for inspiration, and that most of his recordings feature at least one example of his ability to capture and update that era's swaggering good humor. Still, the particular instrumentation of the Pocket Brass represents a new twist--one that would pique my interest even if it weren't presented by such a great cast of characters. Himself a virtuoso of extended technique (he once shared the front line in Anthony Braxton's quartet), Anderson plays with tonal depth and a buzz-cut edge, effortlessly traversing the entire range of his instrument, from haunted melodies to funky growls to explosive charges of throaty glee. He can get really wacky, too, as can trumpeter Jack Walrath, an alumnus of Charles Mingus's late bands and one of the most inventive musicians around. Hard-swinging tubaist Bob Stewart's technical flexibility and unflappable rhythm have made him a valued sideman on dozens of recordings. And as a bonus, drummer Charli Persip--a vital component of big bands led by Dizzy Gillespie in the 50s and Billy Eckstine in the 60s and the leader of his own Superband jazz orchestra in the 80s--completes the roster. Rarely heard in Chicago, Persip has built his reputation on his ability to power and shape big-band jazz, so his participation with this especially small band--one that lacks a drummer's traditional allies--adds an extra element of surprise. Saturday, 10 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln; 773-404-9494. NEIL TESSEr

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Waring Abbott.

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