Azita | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Last year Azita Youseffi surprised me by saying she'd always thought of her music as something people could sing along with. True, there was a singsongy quality threading through the agitated screech of her first group, the Scissor Girls, and a semioperatic grandeur to her second band, the abrasive, shape-shifting Bride of No No. But it wasn't until her piano-driven 2003 solo album, Enantiodromia, that Youseffi began sculpting melodies that could take root in your brain. There are songs on her new album, Life on the Fly (Drag City), that haven't left my head for days. Her crack band--bassist Matt Lux and drummer John McEntire, with guest guitarist Jeff Parker and cornetist Rob Mazurek--digs deep into the harmonic possibilities of her bewitching chord patterns, and Youseffi herself delivers some terrific, succinct improvisations on both acoustic and electric piano. By turns her jazzy, mouthy phrasing evokes Laura Nyro and Steely Dan's Donald Fagen--not that her full-throated voice could ever be mistaken for anyone else's. She's a cryptic lyricist, but most of the songs concern compromise and disappointment, whether romantic or existential. For this performance she appears with her touring band--bassist Nick Macri, drummer Ryan Rapsys, and Changes guitarist David Rothblatt. The Race (see the Meter) and Catfish Haven open. $8 in advance, $10 at the door. Saturday, June 26, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499.

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

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