Brad Wheeler Quintet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Brad Wheeler Quintet


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Local saxist Brad Wheeler plays with an infectious passion, but it's rooted as much in musical intellect as it is in his broad, swaggering tone on both tenor and soprano. Wheeler's name might ring a bell: he grew up in the Chicago suburbs and hit the local scene hard and fast in the 80s, but after he moved to Paris in 1990 his work all but vanished from these shores (though he did appear on a couple of Kurt Elling's Blue Note albums). Wheeler repatriated a few years ago, and last October he released The Future Was Yesterday (Origin)--one of the five best discs by a Chicago jazzman, and one of the better jazz albums by any American, to come out in 2005. While too many of his contemporaries extend a solo by casting their nets in all directions, Wheeler trades breadth for depth: he drills deep into the sinew of a composition, using his own newly mined phrases to corkscrew deeper still (an approach you can hear most clearly these days in the work of saxist Chris Potter). I'm tempted to say that Wheeler's French sojourn is the reason he's escaped the influence of Michael Brecker, whose tenor work has shaped an entire generation of American saxists--except he didn't sound like Brecker even before he moved overseas. For this slightly delayed record-release party, Wheeler's gathered most of the album's personnel: Kurt Elling's rhythm section (bassist Rob Amster, drummer Kobie Watkins, and pianist Laurence Hobgood, who produced the disc) and guitarist John Moulder. See also Saturday. Fri 1/20, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $10.

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