Strange Pursuit | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Strange Pursuit 

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This young trio of sax, guitar, and drums has chosen an appropriate name for its endeavor: performing a repertoire of classic and original jazz tunes with this rather unorthodox instrumentation is a strange pursuit indeed. But on their recent debut, The Zone (Red Hook), they prove their obvious musicianship and an even more obvious commitment to this rarefied sound of theirs. Think of the band as a chamber-music trio for the postmodern set. As it turns out, you'll hear plenty more of the same instrumentation this summer, courtesy of another band--the Charlie Hunter Trio--who have just released a hot new album of their own. But Hunter's trio begs the issue: the leader plays both bass lines and solos--simultaneously and quite astoundingly--on his eight-string guitar, and the band has a conventional, anchoring bottom to its sound. In Strange Pursuit you'll find neither a bassist nor bass lines, which accounts for the wide-open and even rootless cast of its sonic profile. When guitarist Bruce Saunders solos against Eric Halvorson's drums, it seems like a prelude to the next event; and even though both musicians emphasize the lower timbres of their instruments when saxist Bruce Huron enters the picture, they still sound more like a duo with a hitchhiker than a fully integrated trio. You keep waiting for the rest of the band to kick in, and it's that anticipation that keeps listeners so determinedly (and deliciously) off balance. By thwarting expectations with this seemingly incomplete lineup, Strange Pursuit get to start from scratch, allowing them to redefine the musical menu quite literally from top to bottom. Sunday, 8 PM, HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.

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