Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls 

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The whole idea of instrumental protest music is sort of counterintuitive--if you had something to say, wouldn't you use words? But on his superb new Breeding Resistance (Delmark), jazz drummer Ted Sirota succeeds in giving voice to his convictions, smartly turning musical signifiers into powerful metaphors for a variety of issues and causes. "Saro-Wiwa," named for the Nigerian dissident who was executed by his government in 1995, matches a deeply funky horn riff with a relentless Afrobeat groove in a manner reminiscent of Fela Kuti. "Chairman Fred," a tribute to Fred Hampton, first layers snippets of the slain Black Panther's fiery oratory over a billowy, elegiac melody, then explodes into a controlled chaos of beatbox rhythms sputtering over an assaultive synth bass part. "This Is a Takeover!" gets across a sense of mounting frustration in its tense roots-reggae feel, while "Huntsville, TX" (named for the home of the busiest death row in America) is a suitably somber meditation. While Sirota's activist passions drive the project, his bandmates deserve credit for realizing his vision and writing about half of the album's 11 tracks. Trombonist Jeb Bishop and saxophonist Geof Bradfield are a powerful front line, imbuing the various themes with subtle and affecting harmonic variations and unleashing loads of lyrical solos, ranging from the tender to the enraged. Bassist Clark Sommers anchors the pieces with a deep, woody tone; guitarist Jeff Parker adds plushness with graceful contrapuntal patterns and punch with spiky, angular solos. The Rebel Souls perform as part of the Elastic Festival of Improvised Music (see Spot Check) Thursday, February 26, 9 PM, 3030, 3030 W. Cortland; 773-862-3616. Saturday, February 28, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. Wednesday, March 3, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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