Ben Allison Band | Green Mill | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Ben Allison Band Recommended Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Fri., April 1, 9 p.m. and Sat., April 2, 8 p.m. 2011

Bassist, composer, and bandleader Ben Allison has recorded nine albums of original music, and with each one he finds a new focus; among other things, he's hybridized jazz and Malian music with kora player Mamadou Diabate, played modern chamber jazz with his group Medicine Wheel, and experimented with rock concision. His tenth album, Action-Refraction (due from Palmetto Records on April 12), is the first devoted mostly to music he didn't write himself. There's a knotty, prog-rock feel to his band's version of Thelonious Monk's "Jackie-ing," where Michael Blake's bass clarinet slaloms through a sideways groove, and their take on the meditative Donny Hathaway ballad "Some Day We'll All Be Free" slowly intensifies thanks to old-school synth lines from Jason Lindner and roiling, lacerating feedback from guest guitarist Brandon Seabrook. The liner notes claim that the album's version of Samuel Barber's "St. Ita's Vision" is a nod to Sun Ra, though it sounds more like a post-ELP fantasia; on their cover of the Carpenters hit "We've Only Just Begun," Allison and his band play simultaneously in three different tempos and keys, only locking in during the chorus. Other songs they tweak include PJ Harvey's "Missed," Neil Young's "Philadelphia," and Allison's own "Broken." For these shows Allison will perform with his regular quartet: reedist Blake, guitarist Steve Cardenas, and drummer Rudy Royston. See also Saturday. —Peter Margasak

Price: $12

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