The prevailing wisdom is that as people get older they tend to settle down a bit, but not Hal Russell: as he’s done throughout the career of his NRG Ensemble, the drummer/vibist/saxophonist/trumpeter turns the prevailing wisdom on its head. If anything, his music seems to grow more outrageous, unexpected, and raucously delightful each year. And flat-out funny: the man who once opened a concert with his band running around the stage wearing gas masks–who has composed an entire suite loopily based on the characters and musical themes of The Sound of Music–last year released an album called Hal on Earth, featuring the unforgettably self-effacing “Hal the Weenie.” In a way, Russell reminds me of that weird uncle every family has (or should have) who either never learned or completely forgot the rules of adult decorum: as a result, he just says and does whatever comes into his head, and it’s frequently the smartest stuff around. Russell’s family of improvisers includes the sometime rock saxophonist Mars Williams–no slouch in the weird department himself–bassists Brian Sandstrom and Kent Kessler, and the spectacularly reliable Steve Hunt on drums and vibes. Thursday, 8 PM, Southend Musicworks, 1313 S. Wabash; 939-2848.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steven Gross.