Steve Million Quintet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Steve Million Quintet 

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In case you've missed it, 1995 has shaped up as one of the busiest years in memory for Chicago jazz musicians on disc. (And this wave shows no signs of crashing, with new albums by the New Horizons Ensemble, Kelly Brand, Tatsu Aoki, the Joel Spencer-Kelly Sill Quartet, Ari Brown, Marshall Vente, the NRG Ensemble, and Brad Goode all either recently arrived or in the pipeline.) This weekend pianist Steve Million joins the rising tide as he presides over a CD-release party for his new Palmetto Jazz album titled--with the artistic license jazz listeners have come to expect (and secretly enjoy)--Million to One. (Other titles I hope to see in the future: Your Next Million; The Million Airs; "Over 50 Sold!"--hey, I got a hundred of 'em.) Million has plenty of technique, but it doesn't beat you over the head, because he also has a remarkably restrained keyboard attack; as a result, even his busiest lines and densest chords avoid bombast. His music can appear deceptively light, but he shapes both his improvisations and his compositions like a careful sculptor: the chips don't so much fly as fall into place when he solos. Million has appeared so often in unorthodox settings--such as his organ/piano/drums trio Monk's Dream and Jeff Newell's anachronistic New Trad Octet--that you could almost forget how he sounds in the straight-ahead jazz-quintet format that frames his album. But the fact is, the easy assurance of his solos and the unforced camaraderie of the band suggest that he'd probably trade a mil--er, a large fortune--to lead a group like this every night. The album features an entirely impressive lineup of New York musicians, two of whom--drummer Ron Vincent and the much-recorded, all-but-incomparable trumpeter Randy Brecker--will jet in for the weekend. So will another New Yorker, the energetic but unheralded saxophonist Tim Ries; Chicago bassist Larry Kohut rounds out the band. Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552.

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