NICHOLAS PAYTON QUINTET In a recording career only about a decade long, trumpeter Nicholas Payton has caromed from one end of jazz history to the other, exploring Louis Armstrong’s music, big-band swing, progressive postbop, and finally hip-hop and dance beats (the last with an electronics-enhanced band, which he brought to town in 2003). Now all of 31, Payton is trying on the role of the grizzled veteran who’s assembled a band of youngsters: his current quintet includes terrific twentysomethings like saxist Marcus Strickland and pianist Danny Grissett. This engagement, which began Tuesday, November 30, is not only the group’s Chicago premiere but its anywhere premiere: the Jazz Showcase audience will have the rare chance to watch a new band take its first breaths. As for the music, Payton says, “We’re in the process of shaping our voice; it will be more or less an extension of my former acoustic quintet.” Works for me. 9 and 11 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $25. See also Saturday and Sunday. –Neil Tesser
IDLE HOURS This Champaign-Urbana trio sounds like they record all their greasy, staticky, artfully misfiring garage-tronica in a skanky efficiency apartment, illuminated only by the cold bluish glow of TV sets and beat-up computers. The buzzy transmissions and anguished flailing on their self-released EP, The EP, Stupid, feels as claustrophobic as a bad trip. It’s, Late Nights, and Alex Maier open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $7. –Monica Kendrick
MODEST MOUSE A scouring of my CD shelves on November 3 and the days after turned up few appropriate posttraumatic sound tracks–most of my 2004 faves sounded irrelevant or, well, too sure of themselves. (Oh, Rock Against Bush Vol. II, will we ever meet again?) But because Modest Mouse’s dogged persistence is rooted in crankiness rather than optimism, Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Epic) struck just the right petulant tone. These onetime indie brats have grown up enough to dismiss Bukowski as an “asshole” and God as a “control freak,” to tighten up musically without marring their distinct sound, and to remark “As life gets longer, awful feels softer / And it feels pretty soft to me.” All of which leads me to suspect that the album’s title refers to their conviction that the world just might not end anytime soon. Secret Machines and Califone open. 7 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 312-666-6667 or 312-559-1212, $28.75. All ages. –Keith Harris
NICHOLAS PAYTON QUINTET See Friday. 9 and 11 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $25.
BIG CITY ROCK The members of this slick LA quintet are all midwestern transplants, but I’m certainly not going to say that their Wisconsin roots explain their music’s white-bread blandness–it could just as well be the SoCal strip malls talking. Their latest release, an eponymous eight-song EP, shows an almost touching faith in the values that kept 80s AOR afloat: facile hooks, faux humility, and nods to all sorts of pop betters, including but not limited to Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, and–God help us–Foreigner. Phoenix headlines, New Sense plays second. 8 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $12. –Monica Kendrick
MOS DEF “I’m a shot clock way above the game / To be point-blank with you, motherfuck the game / I got all this work on me, I ain’t come for play,” raps Mos Def on “Sunshine,” one of the few tracks on his recent The New Danger (Geffen) where he doesn’t feebly sing or try to rock out with his leaden backup band, Black Jack Johnson. Those lines refer to the bigger fish he’s been frying in Hollywood; I haven’t seen enough of his TV and film work to pass judgment, but making a good hip-hop record no longer seems to be his chief concern, or even part of his skill set. The New Danger is stunningly dull–nearly every component, from the flat rhymes to the lifeless blues licks, is cribbed from overly familiar sources. This certainly isn’t what anyone waited five years to hear. 8 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $33.50-$35, 18+. –Peter Margasak
NICHOLAS PATYON QUINTET See Friday. 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $25.
ILL EASE After drumming in New Radiant Storm King and playing bass in Skinner Pilot in the 90s, Elizabeth Sharp went solo under the name Ill Ease; The Exorcist (Too Pure), her second album, is a swaggering, singsong piece of chittering, creaking art punk. Sharp comes off as unabashedly proud and snarky both lyrically and musically–the songs stalk and tease and rattle their chains like a defiant poltergeist chasing a bunch of scenester brats from her drafty old house. Shesus, a hell-raising Dayton punk outfit whose new EP, Ruined It for You (Narnack), was produced by Detroit garage guru Jim Diamond, plays third; Snoozie & the Miltonics and Scout Niblett open. 8:30 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-777-8932, $8 in advance, $10 at the door, 18+. –Monica Kendrick
CUB COUNTRY Jets to Brazil bassist Jeremy Chatelain wants this side project to persuade us he’s really just a laid-back country boy–the band’s second full-length, Stay Poor/Stay Happy (Future Farmer), is a pleasant and accessible dollop of singer-songwritery rock with the mature personality of a thirtysomething suburbanite who’s grown tired of city life and decided to buy a cabin in the woods. The classic-rock pealing on “Missed the Train” and the folksy sway of “If We Should Fall” are inviting, but listening to the record feels like meeting someone you get along with instantly and comfortably, then realizing you have absolutely nothing to say to each other. Darling and Puerto Muerto open. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. –Monica Kendrick
LAY ALL OVER IT Bassist Jason Ajemian and drummer Nori Tanaka have been regular Thursday-night fixtures at Rodan, sometimes in a trio with guitarist Jeff Parker but just as often in an idiosyncratic improv duo. Starting with precomposed melodic fragments, the music moves organically from Tanaka’s fierce swirling grooves to Ajemian’s meditative, stand-alone arco passages. Ajemian adds spontaneous vocals that range from howled chants to original poems sung as the kind of raw, plaintive folk music that the native of Virginia’s mountain country seems to have in his blood. Architeuthis Walks on Land, the duo of violist Amy Cimini and bassoonist Katherine Young, opens. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $5. Ajemian, Tanaka, and Parker also perform Thursday at 10 PM at Rodan, 1530 N. Milwaukee, 773-276-7036. Free. –Peter Margasak
KENTUCKY HILLTOPPERS Nostalgia gets a bad rap in rock, but in bluegrass, where new generations work to recover underdocumented regional and musical history, it’s valuable. The Chicago-based Kentucky Hilltoppers trace their musical heritage to the 1950s group of the same name, a sextet from the Big Sandy River region of eastern Kentucky. The current version has four members, one of whom, Tim Mollette-Parks, is the great-nephew of an original Hilltopper. They haven’t released any recordings yet, but a CD-R I’ve heard features traditional tunes, rootsy originals, and a cover of Steve Earle’s “Graveyard Shift,” all played with energy, fidelity, and glee. Their singing adheres to an old-timey style that sits uneasily in modern ears, but its discomforting strangeness is what makes it so wonderful. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $5 suggested donation. –Monica Kendrick
PHARCYDE, VORDUL MEGA Humboldt Beginnings (Chapter One), the fourth record by LA’s Pharcyde, features just half the personnel responsible for the wildly imaginative Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde and its even more fanciful follow-up, Labcabincalifornia; if only it were half as good as those classics. The album-length celebration of marijuana skitters all over the place, dabbling in Santeria-style chants, retro electropop, neosoul jams, and stuttery post-Timbaland beat mining. Despite a few winning tracks, overall the set feels more unfocused than eclectic.
The Revolution of Yung Havoks (Nature Sounds) is the solo debut from rapper Vordul Mega, formerly known as Vordul Megilah of the duo Cannibal Ox. His skills seem to have survived the name change unimpaired, but without El-P’s deadly production chops and the hectoring of his old tag-team partner Vast Aire, this doesn’t pack anything like the Cannibal Ox punch.
Pharcyde headlines, Vordul opens; Def Jux MCs C-Rayz Walz and 4th Pyramid perform together in between. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $20, 18+. –Peter Margasak
TWO GALLANTS Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel, the two young men who make up this acoustic duo, have known each other since childhood and have played music together for nearly as long–which might explain the scary mind meld they seem to have on their debut, The Throes (Alive). Their symbiosis takes many forms: eerie backcountry guitar picking that crawls like spiders on the wall above your head, Dylan-esque harmonica abuse, acoustic punkery reminiscent of Spot’s post-SST career or the early Violent Femmes, and a delightful ability to relax into a languorous gait and let a hallucinatory epic like “Crow Jane” unspool at its own slow cinematic pace. Catfish Haven and Hanalei open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $7. –Monica Kendrick