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RED KRAYOLA 1/13, LOUNGE AX After making the first Chicago appearance of their 27-year existence last fall, the Red Krayola are in town for a return engagement. Their September show was a spirited blend of oblique humor and lean guitar-drenched rock, informed by a keen sense of dramaturgy. Expect more of the same. Founder Mayo Thompson, the band's only constant, will be joined by guitarists David Grubbs (of Gastre del Sol) and Tom Watson (of Slovenly and Overpass), both of whom performed at the Chicago debut, and drummer George Hurley, the tenacious timekeeper for Firehose and the legendary Minutemen. LaBREA STOMPERS 1/13, EMPTY BOTTLE Party jokeholes from Athens, Georgia, who belly crawl through a thumbnail sketch of American roots music. On their debut, Funzo's Knuckle Room (DB), LaBrea Stompers dabble in rockabilly, 60s garage sounds, pop, and even some pseudometal, but all of these stylistic pit stops are accompanied by the deliberately goofy vocals of Jim Stacy, who seems intent on guaranteeing that no one takes his band seriously. He's doing a fine job. They open for New Bomb Turks (see Critic's Choice), Hula Hoop, and the Martians. BRANDY 1/13, ROSEMONT HORIZON A new-jack-n-jill swing diva, 15-year-old Brandy walks the line between bubblegum teenybopper and silken seductress on her eponymous debut. Thanks to seamless, topflight contemporary R & B production, her age only becomes an issue if you ponder the content of the stupid love songs she's crooning. She's savvy enough to sing from the hip, and her remixed hit version of "I Wanna Be Down" features cameos from such street-smart women as Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Yo Yo. She opens a slow-jam fest headlined by Boyz II Men and Babyface. ACUMEN, COLLA DESTRA 1/14, METRO A low-rent flashback to WaxTrax sound circa 1988, both Acumen and Colla Destra dredge up industrial dance beats for a lost generation that needs a use for its old all-black wardrobe. On their debut outing, Transmissions From Eville...(Robot), Acumen layer a pounding wall of drum-machine rhythms with trite samples, poorly articulated fauxmetal guitar swill, and laughable monster-movie vocals. The inclusion of a quote from Conrad's Heart of Darkness in the liner notes only reinforces the shallowness of their attempt at evoking humanity's dark side. Yawn. Colla Destra's rhythmic scheme eschews Acumen's ridiculous touch of evil for a splash of hip hop, but ultimately it's little more than residue from the dusk of the industrial disco revolution. Blue Eyed Christ also appear. GRINGO 1/14, LOUNGE AX This local trio's self-released debut suggests a whiskey-sodden mix of early Gun Club, X, and Patti Smith all run through a twang strainer. I don't know much about them, but I reckon they sound like a young band because they are. And they're not off to such a bad start. Opening are Lava Sutra and the Flavor Channel. JAZZ MEMBERS BIG BAND 1/15, FITZGERALD'S Longtime Chicago staples, the Jazz Member's Big Band offer a brassy blast evocative of Count Bassie's later units. The orchestra is loaded with local stalwarts such as pianist Frank Mantooth, trumpeters Art Davis and Steve Jensen (who leads the band with Jeff Lindberg), trombonist Paul McKee, and saxophonist Chris Lega, among many others. While hardly innovative, their most recent effort, Diggin' In (Sea Breeze Jazz), provides a hard-swinging testimonial to their exuberant arrangements, zesty straight-ahead soloing, and varied repertoire. At a time when maintaining a band of this size is near impossible, this ensemble not only performs consistently but upholds a high level of quality and professionalism.

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