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Aaron Siegel, Nate Wooley

Trumpeter Nate Wooley and percussionist Aaron Siegel are accomplished group improvisers with strong jazz backgrounds, but in a solo improv setting both tend to throw all idiomatic reference out the window and head for the frontiers of sound research. Wooley–who’s previously played in Chicago with his excellent trio Blue Collar, featuring Steve Swell and Tatsuya […]

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774th Street Quartet

Chicago isn’t hurting for saxophonists, yet I can’t think of a single jazz sax quartet that’s active in town. The 774th Street Quartet doesn’t quite count–bass saxophonist Thomas Mejer lives in Switzerland and altoist Aram Shelton is now based in Oakland–but it’s not a bad start. The group came together early last year and soon […]

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Adrian Belew

Veteran art-rock guitarist Adrian Belew, who made his name with King Crimson and the Bears, has wriggled out from under the “dinosaur” label by keeping busy: lately he’s been recording with the likes of Trent Reznor and William Shatner and churning out a steady stream of solo records. The latest, Side Three (Sanctuary), is the […]

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Aki Onda

As a founding member of Audio Sports–an oddball hip-hop trio with Boredoms ringleader Yamatsuka Eye and producer Nobukazu Takemura–Japanese-born producer Aki Onda crafted masterful sampladelia that showed off his striking facility with modern electronics. But his recent solo work draws on more primitive technology. Since the 80s Onda has used a simple cassette recorder to […]

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The Fall

The Fall was featured on John Peel’s radio show more than any other band, recording 24 sessions between 1978 and 2004. Mark E. Smith, the group’s lone constant, hired and fired more than 30 musicians during that time as he leapt fearlessly from postpunk to slick college rock to sleek disco to straight-up garage rock […]

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Country Teasers

In my mind two things stand out about the first Country Teasers show I saw: the band doing poppers onstage, cackling wildly and in clear sight of the crowd, and guitarist Alastair Mackinven obliging a drunk young woman who bitched that the set hadn’t offended her enough by calling her a dirty cunt. That was […]

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A-Trak, The Rub

If hip-hop steers clear of the gangsta minstrel-show quagmire and continues to annex more and more of mainstream pop culture, sooner or later so many people will have grown up with it as the dominant music of their youth that nobody will still feel compelled to point out when a hip-hop artist isn’t black. Until […]

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Alberta Adams

In the 40s and early 50s blues singer Alberta Adams was a regular headliner on Detroit’s Hastings Street strip, and she kept some big-name company on the road: Duke Ellington and Louis Jordan both hired her as a featured performer. But though she worked with top-flight musicians and recorded sides for prestigious labels like Chess […]

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Against Me!

True to their confrontational name, the guys in Against Me! keep a pretty epic shit list. On their latest album, last year’s Searching for a Former Clarity (Fat Wreck Chords), front man Tom Gabel weighs in on, among other things, the record industry, Yahoo’s terms of service, the capriciousness of the punk scene, and the […]

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Ab Baars Quartet

Most jazz musicians are content to express themselves within the confines of their solos, but the great Dutch reedist Ab Baars is just as interested in personalizing tunes by reworking their underlying structures. In 1999 he did it to the oeuvre of clarinetist John Carter (a onetime mentor), and 2001’s Songs was a brilliantly conceived […]

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Akron/Family

Akron/Family exercised its eclecticism like a group of talented but green rookies on its self-titled debut, released last year on Michael Gira’s Young God Records. It was cool to hear them hop from mellow folk picking to squelchy vocal collage to spacey stadium rock on “Suchness,” or flip from flute-led psychedelia to acoustic balladry to […]

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Alexander Kobrin

Born in Moscow in 1980, Alexander Kobrin won the prestigious Busoni International Piano Competition in 1999 and was the gold medalist at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2005–a prize that carries with it engagements with top orchestras and festivals, including tonight’s recital at Ravinia. His debut CD shows exceptional technique, musical finesse, and […]

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Belle & Sebastian

After a hiatus, a rumored breakup, and a label jump, Belle & Sebastian have reunited with Matador and delivered their sixth proper album, The Life Pursuit. The band has been so cultishly adored and comfortingly consistent since its inception that just its name–a virtual synonym for youngsters with little band buttons, cardigans, and precious regard […]

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Loose Assembly, Mike Reed Duets

Local percussionist Mike Reed might be best known for his activities away from the drum kit: he’s one of the two curators of the Hungry Brain’s Sunday-night jazz series, and last year he was the lead organizer of Pitchfork’s great Intonation festival. But he’s been a steady presence in the local jazz and improvised-music scenes […]

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A Cushicle

Bands with regular engagements are easy to take for granted–until I saw A Cushicle again last month, I’d been telling myself “I’ll just catch them next week” for more than a year. But such engagements are perfect for jazz: the musicians get the time and space to develop a deep rapport. This trio of guitarist […]