Tricolor calls its music “pop-flavored avant-garde jazz,” and though that might set off your oxymoron alarm, the trio does in fact play some of the most exhilarating, least categorizable music you’ll hear this year, with catchy melodies and cool, lean solos informed by lessons learned on the freedom frontier. The band–guitarist Jeff Parker, drummer Dave Pavkovic, and bassist Tatsu Aoki–coalesced in 1996 for a year of Sundays at the old Bop Shop, achieving the bright, uncluttered trialogue documented on their forthcoming debut CD. Parker thrives in everything from mainstream quartets to AACM ensembles to the “post-rock” band Tortoise, and Tricolor lets him display his entire range. On a tune called “Take” he plays with a raw sound and rough attack, while on “Seven Years” his guitar could pass for a bluesy lute; on “Feckless” he flares up into musical noise a la Sonny Sharrock and the guitarists of Miles Davis’s electric years. Pavkovic, who’s ventured into pop as the touring drummer for the Pinetop Seven, feints and segues between rhythms and meters with loose-limbed intensity. He completely controls the shape of “Chicago Cool” as it unfolds, and even on tunes that just call for crisp propulsion he shows an inventive hand with the percussion palette. Underneath all this is Aoki’s adamantine tone and chameleonlike bravura: his bass perfectly matches the music around it, shifting from rumbling, deep-throated shards to free-flowing subterranean strolls. The players’ multiple musical personalities crowd the album’s longest track, “Street,” a 12-minute trance jam that manages to reference the Who, Balinese gamelans, and south Indian classical music. Lesser players could easily lose focus on such an eclectic tune, but Tricolor combines its wide-open imagination with a fierce exactitude that keeps every detail sharp. Friday, 6 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Braden King.