Yeah, just when you thought it was safe to go out to a jazz concert–he’s back. Hal Russell, whose NRG Ensemble often seems to be answering the musical question “What if they played jazz on the Tardis?” has taken over Thursdays at Chicago Filmmakers; the venue is important, since Russell’s big projects of late have featured the group performing in front of a movie screen (one that’s simultaneously in use). Last week, for instance, they offered Russell’s off-the-wall suite based on characters (and the actors who played them) in The Sound of Music, while Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and the rest cavorted behind them. On May 14, Fred (A Tribute to Fred Astaire) was scheduled; May 21 brings a piece based on a film documentary of bandleader Artie Shaw, and May 28 offers The Freedom Principle, based on Chicago critic John Litweiler’s book of the same name. Russell’s programmatic whimsy and self-deprecating commentary shouldn’t fool you, though. His quintet (each member of which plays between two and five different instruments) is one of a handful keeping Chicago’s progressive jazz fires stoked and, not incidentally, one of the three or four tightest bands in town. Thursday, 8 PM, Chicago Filmmakers, 6 W. Hubbard; 329-0854.

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