Tad Shull | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Tad Shull 

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How much you like Tad Shull will certainly depend on how much you miss Ben Webster, Don Byas, Lucky Thompson, and the other big-toned, harmonically daring tenormen descended from the saxophone fountainhead, Coleman Hawkins. The 38-year-old Shull has built his music on models that predate his own birth: an unabashedly tonal, relentlessly swinging style that he invests with plenty of conviction and all the important nuances (from a supple tone that rides on seamless glissandi to a busy ornamentation, paradoxically fussy and ballsy at the some time). Players like Shull--who has clearly mastered not only his instrument but also a past musical sensibility--raise difficult questions for the jazz community. In classical music such attention to musical forebears would be considered scholarship; in jazz, with the emphasis on innovation and progress, it's usually decried as mere revivalism, It messes with what we think of as the "natural order" of things: while we expect to hear a 65-year-old saxophonist play this music, we raise an eyebrow at the same style's allure for a younger musician. (It's almost as if he were playing Harold to the music's Maude.) Yet players like Shull--warmly embracing such older idioms with neither nostalgia nor irony--force us to rethink these questions as we admire their artistry. Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552.

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