774th Street Quartet | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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774th Street Quartet

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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 recorded its brand-new debut, A Rare Thing, the inaugural release from Bloody Murder Records, run by local cartoonist George Hansen. It's the second record that owes its existence at least in part to Chicago's Sister Cities program with Lucerne; Mejer spent about six months here, just as tubaist Marc Unternahrer did before becoming one-fourth of the Chicago Luzern Exchange. The quartet, rounded out by Keefe Jackson and Guillermo Gregorio, doesn't stick to saxes--everyone but Mejer plays some clarinet--but their distinctive timbres provide the disc's dominant colors. All four members contribute compositions that emphasize the format's potential for extended harmonies and textures while leaving room for spontaneous lines, roundelays, and coloristic tangles. One piece includes some electronic processing by Shelton, but otherwise the quartet revels in nothing but the glorious sound of four winds intersecting, colliding, and unifying. The group also plays an in-store at Deadwax Records; see Sunday. Tue 7/11, 9 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, 773-772-3616, $6 suggested donation. All ages.

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