Sidestepper | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sidestepper 

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British producer Richard Blair--the brains behind Sidestepper--got his start as a producer at Peter Gabriel's Real World studios, but a 1992 trip to Colombia changed his trajectory. Producing music for pop stars like Carlos Vives and Aterciopelados as well as traditionalists Toto la Momposina, Blair got sucked in by the local sounds. As Sidestepper he started to craft a patchwork of Latin American genres with a distinctly British club feel. On his debut album, More Grip (Palm Pictures, 2000), he meticulously wed Colombian cumbia, Latin boogaloo, driving salsa, and a touch of reggae to state-of-the-art dance beats, particularly drum 'n' bass; with the help of guest vocalists like former Bloque front man Ivan Bevavides and Aterciopelados singer Andrea Echeverri, he iced the cake with sophisticated pop melodies. There's a stronger Jamaican tinge to Sidestepper's new album, 3 AM (In Beats We Trust), from the dancehall vocals on the stuttery vallenato tune "Mas papaya" to the son montuno piano patterns on "Deja," played with the repetitive syncopation of reggae. That's not the only difference: "Me gustas (no me disgustas)" chugs on horn-stoked Afrobeat, and "Llegare" is a sunny electronic pop tune buoyed by sweet female harmonies. Obviously Blair isn't alone in mixing club beats with international music--just a few weeks ago French producer Marc Minelli brought his Malian-electro-jazz fusion to town as part of the Vive le World tour--but few Anglo producers have pulled it off at this level. For this tour Blair will be joined by three vocalists--including key collaborator Benavides, who cowrote most of the album--plus a keyboardist and a drummer. Sunday, August 3, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.

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