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Friday 18

CHOROS, RAGS & JAZZ This show promises to explore the choro music of Brazil and its relationship to ragtime and New Orleans jazz--a tall order, but I welcome the attempt. Choro spun off from Portuguese fado in the 19th century, and like fado it conveys a mood of bluesy introspection. As it absorbed New World rhythms around the beginning of the 20th century, though, it gained syncopation that bore a strong resemblance to the ragtime Scott Joplin was writing at the same time. In Brazil the choro eventually morphed into its more extroverted descendant, samba, and eventually bossa nova. Sorting all this out is Chicago ragtime doyen and recent MacArthur fellow Reginald R. Robinson; the Chicago duo Dois no Choro, comprising Brazilian-born guitarist Paulinho Garcia and flutist Julie Koidin; and the New Orleans duo of pianist Tom McDermott and clarinetist Evan Christopher, who together recorded the 2002 album Danza (STR Digital), which showcased the Latin influence on early New Orleans jazz. 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $20, $16 seniors and kids. All ages. --Neil Tesser

RAVI COLTRANE QUARTET Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane has taken great pains to stay off his father's coattails: he's largely avoided participating in Trane tributes, and he's worked hard to develop a sound unbeholden to his father's numerous and mightily influential approaches to improvisation. He didn't always succeed in the beginning: on his earliest records he seems to be treading so lightly that he never touches down. The new In Flux (Savoy Jazz) is Coltrane's best work yet, recorded with a simpatico band--pianist Luis Perdomo, drummer E.J. Strickland, and bassist Drew Gress match the leader's adeptness in both sleek straight-ahead playing and succinct forays into free territory. The free-jazz pieces best demonstrate the players' ability to push one another, but even on the more mainstream ballads and midtempo swingers they operate at a high level, never settling into easy vamps. The quartet also appears at the same venue on Thursday, March 17, at 8 and 10 PM. 9 and 11 PM, Jazz Showcase. 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $25. See also Saturday and Sunday. --Peter Margasak

MARIANNE FAITHFULL Released in January, Before the Poison (Anti-) might be the best album of original material the husky-voiced songbird of schadenfreude has made since Strange Weather in 1987. Her collaborators include Damon Albarn, Jon Brion, Nick Cave, and P.J. Harvey, and the last two sound like they've been playing with Faithfull all along, or should have been. Cave's repressed menace and Harvey's tense vibrations slip naturally underneath Faithfull's droll vocals. Warren Ellis's violin commands a few ringing moments on "Crazy Love," and Harvey's background vocals flutter around "My Friends Have" like a banshee at the window. But there's no question it's Faithfull's album, and the words are mostly her own. Fernando Saunders opens. 8 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212, $30. --Monica Kendrick

JUANES On his third album, Mi sangre (Surco/Universal), Colombian pop star Juanes shifts nonchalantly between cumbia, new wave, funk, and reggae (among other styles), but for all its surface slickness his stuff isn't insubstantial. Though he's not explicitly political, Juanes doesn't shy away from Colombia's unending discord and desperation in his lyrics. Whether lamenting a street hood's lack of options or warning listeners to watch out for land mines, his songs express a yearning for peace without resorting to melodrama or slogan-eering. Sure, he also does plenty of conventional love songs, and they can get plenty treacly, but next to the pop tarts we produce here in the U.S. Juanes comes off like Bob Dylan. 8 PM, UIC Pavilion, 1150 W. Harrison, 773-227-4266 or 312-559-1212, $55-$85. All ages. --Peter Margasak

ULRICH SCHNAUSS A Strangely Isolated Place (Domino), the most recent album by Berlin electronica artist Ulrich Schnauss, has both indie rockers and IDM aficionados slinging the word "masterpiece" around, and for good reason: it's a seductive tapestry of shoegazer ambience and down-tempo digital throb. In the past Schnauss has remixed songs by Rachel Goswell, Depeche Mode, and others, and toured with the French instrumental duo M83. (He'll rejoin them on the road next month.) On A Strangely Isolated Place he's the Vangelis to M83's Tangerine Dream, meshing lush melodies with shimmering atmospherics and gently propulsive rhythms. Montag and Kate Simko open. 9 PM, Open End Gallery, 2000 W. Fulton, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $10. All ages. --J. Niimi

SILKWORM On their ninth full-length, It'll Be Cool, this trio plays its novelistic, detail-oriented indie rock much the way it's done for years: a little bit of angst balanced by a little bit of snark, serpentine riffs twining around woozy music-hall narrative. Unexpected instruments--the keyboard on "Penalty Box," the mandolin on "Something Hyper"--make playful guest appearances, flight-of-fancy excursions that joyously subvert the guitar-bass-drums reality around them. MirrorAmerica, Sanawon, and Whale|Horse open. a 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, 18+, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. --Monica Kendrick

Saturday 19

RAVI COLTRANE QUARTET See Friday. 9 and 11 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $25.

SONNY FORTUNE & RASHIED ALI Rashied Ali didn't play many studio sessions with John Coltrane, but their collaboration produced one of Coltrane's best (and last) albums: the ferocious sax-drums duet Interstellar Space. Forgoing Elvin Jones's deep swing, Ali met Trane head-on, driving the spiritual and improvisational questing in his wild late work with explosive, coloristic free rhythms. This performance has served as a touchstone for Ali throughout his strong career, particularly on subsequent duet outings, and he looked to it once again when backing saxophonist Sonny Fortune for one track on In the Spirit of John Coltrane (Shanachie), the album Fortune put out in 2000. The bulk of the album is rooted in Coltrane's more swinging material, but on the closer, "For John," there's no doubt--the presence of bassist Reggie Workman notwithstanding--that Interstellar Space provided the inspiration. Fortune had long been a super straight-ahead player, but this track proved he could do a little soul-searching as well. He and Ali have worked sporadically as a duo since, often re-creating the music and the intensity of the Coltrane tribute. 7 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $20. --Peter Margasak

ELLIS PAUL It can't be easy mining whatever gold's left in that thar folk circuit, but this prolific Boston-based songwriter and touring machine has been making it look that way for over a decade. Paul's favorite topics include social injustice and all the other classic themes of the Disciples of Guthrie, and he revisits them on his forthcoming American Jukebox Fables (Philo). If he gets mawkish at times--as he does on "Kiss the Sun (A Song for Pat Tillman)," which trips a gag reflex I didn't know I had--it's less in his literary lyrics than in his delivery and arrangements, which too often wander into the realm of folk pop. ("Clarity" is probably lovely if you can withstand the Dan Fogelberg flashbacks.) He's at his best live and unproduced. (Paul also plays an all-ages show tomorrow afternoon in the burbs: 4:30 PM, Ballydoyle, 5157 Main, Downers Grove, 630-969-0600, $20.) 7:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15 in advance, $18 at the door. --Monica Kendrick

Sunday 20

APOCALYPTICA Consider the long and dismal history of the mutual attraction between hard rock bands and orchestras: the result is usually a traumatic trophy marriage that humiliates both parties. With that in mind you might be wary of Apocalyptica, a heavy cello trio from Finland. But these long-haired, leather-clad headbangers pack some serious power between their knees, attacking their instruments with metallic precision and precious little orchestra-pit gentility. Their new, eponymously titled album (featuring vocals by Finnish stars Ville Valo of H.I.M. and Lauri Ylonen of the Rasmus) continues their progress away from the celloized Metallica covers of earlier releases and toward original compositions hailing from the place where Scandinavian metal meets Sibelius--i.e., a dark alley, with switchblades. (Sibelius comes out very strong.) The Butchershop Quartet opens. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, 18+, sold out. --Monica Kendrick

RAVI COLTRANE QUARTET See Friday. 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20.

BUDDY MILLER Mainstream country music has become practically synonymous with Christianity, so I was initially surprised that Buddy Miller, one of the most staunch and talented opponents of the assembly-line Nashville orthodoxy, publicly embraces his faith on his latest album, Universal United House of Prayer (New West). Raised Jewish, Miller converted in the early 80s after meeting his future wife, Julie, who began her career on the Christian-music circuit. Last fall he told Robert Christgau that the new album was in part a reaction to "the way Jesus has been hijacked by the Bush administration," and his feelings are most apparent on his nine-minutes-plus cover of Bob Dylan's classic antiwar dirge, "With God on Our Side." On other songs he bristles at the way religion is manipulated to exploit the powerless. But he also covers the celebratory Louvin Brothers gem "There's a Higher Power," and on "This Old World," cowritten with Victoria Williams, he expresses the humanism that's in nearly all his work, singing "Just forgive and let live for a little while." As usual Miller draws freely from folk rock, honky-tonk, and blues, but black gospel fervor dominates, thanks to the soulful wailing of Regina and Ann McCrary, the daughters of Fairfield Four founder Sam McCrary. Al Anderson opens these shows, part of Robbie Fulks's "Secret Country" series. 4 and 7:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $18-$22. --Peter Margasak

PETTY BOOKA This two-woman Tokyo outfit started playing ukuleles in hula skirts ten years ago, but the shtick hasn't proved limiting--their chops and chiming vocals transcend the novelty appeal, and they've expanded their repertoire over the years. Across a stack of albums they've covered Wanda Jackson, the Ramones, Madonna, Patsy Cline, Bob Wills, Steppenwolf, and countless others, sweeping up so much of the world into their music that it's downright otherworldly. Tsushimamire, Titan Go Kings, and Puppypet open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. --Monica Kendrick

SUBARACHNOID SPACE Mason Jones, the founding guitarist and electronicist of this long-standing west coast heavy-psych band, doesn't play on its new album, The Red Veil (Strange Attractors Audio House), but the reconfigured group gets along remarkably well without him; with underrated guitarist Melynda Jackson stepping forward, the lengthy instrumentals show the increasing influence of darkwave and doom metal. There are new wisps of ethereality in the songs, and they hit new depths of crunge, but slow-building spacey drones are still the crux of the matter. I've seen the band live before and enjoyed them immensely, though I'll warn you--they treat volume as an instrument unto itself. Yakuza, Paik, and Monostripe open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Monica Kendrick

Monday 21

CHINESE STARS, ROGERS SISTERS The three members of the Brooklyn group the Rogers Sisters--two of whom are actually sisters--have found a way to make postpunk bubblegum without pretentiousness. They don't so much sound like the B-52's, as is often remarked, as share their genuine joyfulness. The slightly strident party-or-else buzz on Three Fingers (Troubleman) can be a little enervating, especially before the coffee kicks in, but they never sound like they're forcing it. I can't say the same for Chinese Stars after listening to last year's A Rare Sensation (Three One G), but then I expect rougher going from veterans of Arab on Radar and Six Finger Satellite. The Tyrades open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $10, 18+. --Monica Kendrick

Wednesday 23

PICCOLA ORCHESTRA AVION TRAVEL This Italian sextet has spent 25 years crafting its elegant modern cafe music, a decidedly European-sounding fusion of classic Italian song forms with chanson and tango, made even more dramatic with contemporary art-pop production and savvy electronic flourishes. On Poco mossi gli altri bacini (Sugar, 2003) female guest vocalists complement Peppe Servillo's vulnerable singing, heightening the sense of romantic grandeur, but the group's delicate, urbane sound remains essentially unchanged. This is one of only three U.S. appearances. a 8:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $15, $10 students and seniors. --Peter Margasak

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