Tony Reedus Quartet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Tony Reedus Quartet 

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From his very first recordings--with bands led by his uncle, pianist James Williams--Memphis-born drummer Tony Reedus has offered listeners a tight beat and no-nonsense swing derived from classic hard-bop models like Art Blakey, Louis Hayes, Philly Joe Jones, and Art Taylor. Reedus's drive, along with his explosive solo style and good command of drum-kit colors, has created a reasonable demand for his services in the New York mainstream: he's worked regularly with Art Farmer, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, and Joanne Brackeen, to name a few. But a drummer, the guy at the back of the bandstand, usually needs more than drive to lead his own group: a flair for composition (a la Roy Haynes or Louie Bellson), a unique approach to the instrument (Max Roach, Elvin Jones), or both (Tony Williams, Ronald Shannon Jackson). Reedus doesn't seem to have either of those things--he hasn't changed the face of drumming, and on his first three discs as a leader he's credited with only two tunes--but like Blakey he knows how to assemble a band and shape its music. The lineup of the quartet he leads here (aka "Frontiers") features some better-known movers and shakers: In the rhythm section there's John Patitucci, a splashy virtuoso on acoustic and electric bass who cut his teeth on Chick Corea's high-energy melodies in the late 80s; he's also a prolific songwriter, and I'd guess that a couple of his heartfelt ballads will show up on the set lists. On guitar is John Abercrombie, the pioneering romanticist who's left his mark on John Scofield and Pat Metheny; his gig with Charles Lloyd at the Jazz Showcase last spring made my ten-best list for the year. And to front the band Reedus has engaged Ravi Coltrane (yes, son of John), who's been slowly evolving into a passionate and engrossing tenor man. Reedus's 1996 disc, Minor Thang (Criss Cross), features different players in the same instrumentation, but the chemistry among his present personnel should produce a far more complex reaction. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.

Neil Tesser


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