When the President last performed in Chicago, the band seemed ill at ease and out of place: it was a rare live performance, and the President plodded through the repertoire as if it were a necessary speech to unimportant union members. But, like its namesake, the President has undergone significant changes since 1989. For starters, this new-music sextet–which sits somewhere on the border between jazz and rock and counts electronic sounds, Ornette Coleman, industrial-noise music, and postminimalist composition among its constituencies–has three new members. (Most prominent is J.A. Deane, who puts down his trombone long enough to provide unusual and witty electronics; the holdovers are the expressive reedman Doug Wieselman and the unflappable Bobby Previte on drums.) More important, the band’s new album, Miracle Mile on Elektra Nonesuch, reveals a kinder, gentler President, with a bit more room for improvisation and a looser approach to its ornately structured compositions; and the fact that this Chicago concert finds these guys in the midst of an eight-city tour suggests they’ve gotten past their discomfort with live performances. But describing this band remains as difficult as ever: I can only say they reflect Horvitz’s clever synthesis of disparate elements, and that their new music could be the sound track to a yet-unmade Wim Wenders film. Preceding the President’s remarks is a trio led by guitar visionary Bill Frisell, whose sinewy, slippery ideas come sheathed in soft-focus timbres. Saturday, 8 and 11 PM, HotHouse, 1569 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.

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