Rex Richardson Quintet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Rex Richardson Quintet 

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Starting with Gabriel and on up through Wynton, the young man with a horn--as in trumpet--has charismatically commanded attention. In Chicago, as in other locales, such figures come and go; but this year's model, 24-year-old Rex Richardson, has plenty of tools to carve himself a distinct niche. All of them--his hot and versatile tone, his rhythmic precision at various tempos, and his comfort in the presence of far more established musicians--descend from his artistic bravura. That quality jumps out in an obvious way on a hell-bent performance like "Mind if I Read?" (from Richardson's debut CD, The Powers That Be, on the Evanston-based Criterion Records); it shows up more subtly in his confident way with a ballad, and in the vapor-lock grip he puts on a medium-tempo swinger. Richardson is still learning texture. He soars on the fast stuff, and he knows how to find the quiet places, but he hasn't really mastered the music's vast middle range, where the light and shadows mix. That prevents even his most impressive improvisations from delving too deep; that they can still have a significant musical impact speaks to the level of his talent, and makes his progress all the more worth enjoying. His exciting quintet, starring saxophonist Mike Pendowski, will alternate with a trio led by pianist Brandon McCune (home from school for the holiday). Friday, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

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