Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Ari Brown Quartet




As a soloist Ari Brown provides plenty of individualized excitement, but he also sustains and helps to expand Chicago's postbop tenor tradition. He fills the room with the brawny sound, intrepid lyricism, and rhythmic elasticity that mark Chicago saxophonists from Von Freeman and Gene Ammons through Johnny Griffin, Joseph Jarman, and Ed Petersen. Like the rest of them, Brown plays with power and a rough-hewn grace. He offers the illusion of talking through his horn, with a down-to-earth accent that humanizes his furthest-flung concepts. This year, some three decades after taking up the saxophone, a quarter century after joining the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and following his appearances on recordings by McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Orbert Davis, and Kahil El'Zabar, Brown finally got around to releasing an album under his own name. That's too long to wait for anyone's debut, but Ultimate Frontier (Delmark) comes close to justifying the delay: a rollicking, flavorful tour de force sustained by a soulful spirituality. Like the band he brings to the Bop Shop this weekend, it stars his younger brother, Kirk, whose piano playing blooms above the same muscular base that underlies Ari's work on both tenor and soprano. In all likelihood, though, that won't keep Ari himself from the piano: he's an accomplished keyboardist who has occasionally played in other saxists' bands, and his piano solo on the title track is one of the album's highlights. Brown's regular quartet rides the rhythmic surf generated by the splendid pairing of Yosef Ben Israel on bass and Avreeayl Ra on drums, and they can be a great band. Saturday, 10 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232. NEIL TESSER

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

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