Music » Soundboard

The List: July 22-28, 2010

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet, Juana Molina, Struck by Lightning, David Dondero, Natacha Atlas, and more

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Renato Borghetti, Boris Malkovsky
Throw Down Your Hammer and Sing


Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet
Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus
Juana Molina


Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus
Struck By Lightning


Bomba Estereo
David Dondero


Zizek Club Summer Tour


Natacha Atlas


RENATO BORGHETTI, BORIS MALKOVSKY Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil, is traditionally a cattle-ranching area, and has as much in common culturally with Uruguay and northern Argentina as with Sao Paulo and Rio. The gaita ponto, a compact diatonic button accordion, is central to the area's traditional gaucho music, which has superficial similarities with tango and zydeco but differs markedly from both (and from the accordion-based forró music of Brazil's northeast) in its quicker, more light-footed rhythmic feel. This moody, bittersweet musica gaucha evokes wide-open spaces, the galloping of horses, and the smell of coffee and mate tea being prepared over a campfire. The state has long been supportive of its traditional music—it's easy to find on local radio stations—and in recent years it's become increasingly popular across Brazil. Since the mid-1980s RENATO BORGHETTI, a native of Rio Grande do Sul, has been one of its premier musical ambassadors, a fast-fingered gaita ponto virtuoso who embraces tradition while incorporating just enough outside influence from jazz, pop, samba, and other Brazilian styles to keep the music from stagnating—he keeps finding intelligent ways to incorporate the rich, evocative sound of his instrument into new contexts and arrangements. On some of his more recent releases, such as Fandango (2008), a faint whiff of smooth jazz occasionally intrudes, but it's quickly swept away by the pleasantly raw sound of Borghetti's own playing, which still retains most of the fire so abundant on his recordings from two and a half decades ago. —Renaldo Migaldi

Renato Borghetti
  • Renato Borghetti

BORIS MALKOVSKY, born in Ukraine and now based in Tel Aviv, Israel, is a master of the bayan (a type of button accordion), and as a player and composer he's devoted himself to developing new vocabularies and modes of expression for Jewish, Romany, and other eastern European folk musics. His 2007 album Time Petah-Tiqva (Tzadik) juxtaposes his jaunty, fluid squeeze-box melodies with the 20th-century-classical chops of the Israel Contemporary String Quartet and the driving double bass of Ora Boazson. Malkovsky's deft writing and graceful arranging accommodate everything from raucous dance rhythms to elegant chamber passages without a hiccup, so that disparate traditions hang together as a single piece. In his Chicago debut he's backed by five string players from the Pittsburgh Symphony who work together as the Agam Ensemble, specializing in Jewish music. —Peter Margasak

Borghetti headlines and Malkovsky opens.  6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Randolph, 312-742-1168.

THROW DOWN YOUR HAMMER AND SING Jersey City trumpeter Nate Wooley is one of the instrument's most versatile and daring players. On Day in Pictures (Clean Feed), a forthcoming album by reedist Matt Bauder, he sounds perfectly at home in swing time, his precise, melodic solos following standard jazz changes—but he can also push into hard-core abstraction, and he's even more resourceful and arresting there. Tonight he reconvenes a trio with two Chicagoans, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and bassist Jason Roebke, that he's calling Throw Down Your Hammer and Sing—also the name of a challenging album of unstructured free improvisation the group released last year on Porter Records. Together they draw from a huge arsenal of extended techniques, their finely attuned interactions creating taut, detailed soundscapes that sound feverish even at their most sparse and quiet. Roebke and Lonberg-Holm almost never fall back on staid, regularly repeating rhythms, instead using percussive thwacks and tangles and striated, often abrasive arco figures; Lonberg-Holm sometimes transforms his sound with electronics, immersing his scrapes and screeches in acidic feedback. Wooley navigates this gnarled terrain beautifully: though he can play with a clarion timbre, he punctures it at every turn with puckered cries and astringent, buckling long tones, as well as using his horn unconventionally to produce unpitched flutters, tea-kettle sputter, and grinding mechanical croaks. Even in the total absence of melody and pulse, the three of them are able to use each rasp, squeak, spurt, and whinny to create a clear sense of momentum and direction. 10 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-772-3616, $8. —Peter Margasak


TERRY ADAMS rock & roll quartet On "Imaginary Radio," from NRBQ's 2004 album Dummy, keyboardist Terry Adams sings, "I heard Sun Ra / His song was number one." I'd expect to see proof of life on Mars before I found a radio station with a playlist like that, but Adams is such a true believer in the power of American music that I'm sure he's still holding out. A new spin through that tune appears on Crazy 8's (Clang!), the debut album by his Rock & Roll Quartet, along with two songs from last year's Holy Tweet. Ever since NRBQ went on hiatus six years ago, Adams has played mostly with a revolving assortment of musicians in one-off bands only marginally different from one another in style and substance. The quartet is a regular working group, though, and features Chicago wunderkind Scott Ligon (also on Holy Tweet), drummer Conrad Choucroun, and Figgs bassist Pete Donnelly. Ligon's singing and guitar playing complement Adams's more pop-inclined tunes—including "My Girl My Girl" and "'Til It's Over," which recalls Alex Chilton's brilliantly obtuse solo work—and true to form, Adams can't help but at least hint at, if not indulge in, most of his other interests, like hard rock, country, free jazz, and rockabilly (the last with "Get Down Grandpa," which is basically a bald-faced rewrite of "Roll Over Beethoven," and a nice treatment of Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm"). 9 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 866-468-3401, $15. —Peter Margasak

GRANT PARK ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS The horrors of World War II wrested some striking music from British composers, including Michael Tippett's oratorio A Child of Our Time (1941). Inspired by the shooting of a German official in Paris by 17-year-old Jewish refugee Herschel Grynszpan and the Nazi response—Kristallnacht—it put Tippett on the map, and has remained one of his most popular works. The composer produced the text himself after failing to enlist his friend and mentor T. S. Eliot, and it reflects his lifelong humanist and pacifist beliefs. Both text and music juxtapose new with old, and though Tippett's writing can be somewhat patchy his sincerity and emotional intensity pull the listener through. Above all, it's the five African-American spirituals magnificently woven into the score that elevate the work to something universal. Grant Park Chorus director Christopher Bell conducts the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, joined by an excellent vocal quartet of soprano Jonita Lattimore, mezzo Anita Krause, tenor Garrett Sorenson, and bass John Relyea. There are open rehearsals Thu 7/22 at 10:30 AM and Fri 7/23 at 11 AM. See also Saturday. 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Randolph, 312-742-7638. —Steve Langendorf

JUANA MOLINA Solidarity between musicians and machines was old news by the time Kraftwerk sang "We are the robots," but I've never encountered anyone who seems at one with them the way Juana Molina does. If you've only seen the Argentine singer-songwriter in photos, the acoustic guitar might persuade you that she's just an ordinary folkie. But at her concerts you can watch her construct her music one loop at a time, layering vocals, keyboards, guitars, and percussion—her rack of electronics seems like an extension of her person, like a juggler's pins seem invisibly linked to his limbs. The last time Molina came through town, she brought extra musicians to help realize the heavier rhythms on the recent Un Dia (Domino), but they actually diminished the thrill of her live show—it's more fun to see her pull it off all alone. She's back to playing solo on her current tour, but she hasn't forsaken the kind of dense grooves that characterize Un Dia: her latest projects are a 12-inch remix of "Un Dia" by a German DJ called Reboot and an as-yet unreleased remix she's doing of Congotronics combo the Kasai Allstars. Jim Elkington opens. 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $22, $20 members, $18 seniors and kids. —Bill Meyer


GRANT PARK ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS See Friday. 7:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Randolph, 312-742-7638. —Steve Langendorf

STRUCK BY LIGHTNING It's been obvious since Corrosion of Conformity's heyday that metal and hardcore make a great match. Both genres are fast, aggressive, and built according to simple and compelling rules that allow even not-so-great bands to sound not so bad, as long as they don't get too fancy. Which is why it's hard to believe that the hybrid of the two known as metalcore has produced so much truly awful music—the few really good records get lost in the screamy, mascara-smudged shuffle. Columbus's Struck by Lightning do hardcore-laced metal right by keeping it simple. The songs on their 2009 album Serpents (Translation Loss) have a short list of ingredients: monster riffs, cinder-block guitar tones, car-crash hardcore drumming, and a guy screaming like an angry, wounded animal. There are only a couple of tricky breakdowns, and just one of the band's members has anything that might qualify as a "hairstyle." Black Cobra headlines; Howl, Struck by Lightning, and Hunters open. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12. —Miles Raymer


BOMBA ESTEREO This excellent combo, led by guitarist, bassist, and programmer Simon Mejia, emerged in 2005 from the electronica scene in Bogota, Colombia, and developed a frothy, propulsive take on cumbia and champeta (a kind of stew of local, African, and Caribbean styles). Mejia had been working toward this sound for some time, and Bomba Estereo lead singer Li Saumet turned out to be the key that made everything click. On the group's 2008 album Blow Up (released in the States last year by Nacional) she combines aggressive swagger and punchy precision, her delivery informed by the rhythms of dancehall as well as the soulful fervor of traditional Afro-Colombian music (on "Juana" she seems to be channeling the brilliant Toto la Momposina). And onstage she's a ball of energy, her vocal presence matched by her physical charisma. Bomba Estereo's lively sense of fun can carry their music even when it's at its least original—they recently covered Technotronic's "Pump Up the Jam" for a silly Levis promotion without embarrassing themselves. For the Millennium Park concert the band opens for the wonderful old-school New York gospel shouter Naomi Shelton and her group the Gospel Queens. 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Randolph and Michigan, 312-742-1168. Also 9 PM, Green Dolphin Street, 2200 N. Ashland, 773-620-7909, $15, $10 in advance, 18+. —Peter Margasak

David Dondero
  • David Dondero

DAVID DONDERO After almost five decades of earnest music rooted in the American folk tradition championed by Woody Guthrie et al and fused, post-Dylan, with the rhythm and energy of rock 'n' roll, you'd be right to suspect that the territory has become incredibly played out. But here and there a few musicians, like David Dondero, are able to find life in it. In the late 90s Dondero stopped playing in punk bands—I first met him when he drummed for the cultishly adored folk-punk outfit This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb—and focused on his solo career, which has since produced about an album's worth of humble, intimate, and moving music per year. He also does a ridiculous amount of touring, usually in jam-econo fashion—he booked one solo outing around an Amtrak special offer. His upcoming #Zero With a Bullet (on Team Love, a label cofounded by noted fan Conor Oberst) has a little more noise than usual, but still shoots straight for the heart. The Heligoats and Animal City open. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. —Miles Raymer


ZIZEK CLUB SUMMER TOUR There's something appealingly utopian about the currently popular concept of a worldwide "bass culture." The Internet-aided diffusion of hip-hop, house, and electro around the globe has not only spawned all sorts of new hybrids with local styles but has also resulted in a massively multipartner digital conversation about 808 beats and ass-shaking that's flavored by an untold number of regional dialects. The musicians associated with the Buenos Aires-based Zizek group—called ZZK for short, it's part nightclub, part promoter, part label, part artist collective—have come up with one of the more interesting blends going. Along with the aforementioned Big Three bass-culture styles, they've taken bits of dub, trance, and dancehall and a dash of punk's turn-it-up energy and bent them all to fit the rhythmic structure of South American cumbia, itself a hybrid of musical traditions that came out of tossing a dozen or so distinct cultures together in one place. The result is a spark-throwing mass of sound that evokes fantasies of an El Dorado of Rave far below the equator. Tremor headlines; El Remolón, Chancha Via Circuito, and El G open. 10 PM, Beauty Bar, 1444 W. Chicago, 312-226-8828, $5. —Miles Raymer


NATACHA ATLAS Raised by an Arabic father and an English mother in a Moroccan neighborhood in the suburbs of Brussels, Natacha Atlas has spent her entire career exploring collisions of Western and Middle Eastern music. Though Transglobal Underground produced many of Atlas's early solo albums, building them around throbbing dance-club beats, on her most recent, Ana Hina (World Village, 2008), she gets quiet. Her singing is intimate, conversational, sometimes even hushed, and the restrained instrumental backdrops—compact string arrangements, tinkling piano, gently percolating Middle Eastern percussion, reeling Paris-cafe accordion, slaloming ney and clarinet—make it possible to hear a richness and variety of tone in her voice that was sometimes concealed in her more extroverted work. Consisting mostly of covers, the album includes a tune cowritten by Frida Kahlo and a gauzy but pensive spin through the Appalachian folk song "Black Is the Colour." A new album in the same vein, inspired by the writing of Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, is due in September; she's likely to preview that material at this show, where she fronts a five-piece ensemble. 8:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $5 suggested donation. —Peter Margasak

ENGINES With their second album, Wire and Brass (Okka Disk), the Engines have become one of the city's best jazz groups—elegant, nimble, and with a pliant, organic sound that can shift smoothly from sensual and quite conventional postbop to raucous, paint-peeling free jazz, then back again. The band's writing and arranging have taken a giant leap from their already impressive debut, and though the tunes have multiple sections (whether a "section" is defined by a new melody, a different level of activity, or a change in style) they never sound choppy or partsy. Trombonist Jeb Bishop and saxophonist Dave Rempis make a thrilling front line, shaping plush contrapuntal melodies with a precision that reminds me of the Dave Holland Quintet at its best—there's loads of multilinear improvisation as well as tightly written puzzle-piece patterns, and even their full-bore blowing maintains some kind of engagement with the composed material. Drummer Tim Daisy gets his fair share of solo space, and as a support player he's just as integral to the ensemble sound as the horns—the absence of a chordal instrument in the rhythm section helps foreground the thoughtful note displacements and on-the-fly reshaping of pattern, density, and texture that he uses to color and complement his bandmates' efforts. Bassist Nate McBride, who wrote two of the new album's five pieces, provides sumptuous low end, playing mostly upright bass and sticking largely to a rhythmic role—on "Free Range," though, he switches to electric, hovering over the tune with clouds of feedback. David Daniell spins between sets.  9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $6. —Peter Margasak

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