Carlo Actis Dato | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Carlo Actis Dato


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One of the coolest things about good Italian jazz is its nonchalant disregard for genre: the musicians frequently lace their compositions and improvisations with everything from regional folk melodies to skronking free jazz to jaunty marching rhythms. And few of them do it with more panache than saxophonist Carlo Actis Dato. A mover and shaker on the scene since the early 70s, he's played in countless ensembles, including the mighty collective called the Italian Instabile Orchestra, which floored the crowd at last year's Chicago Jazz Festival. Among his own groups are a long-running quartet and several different trios and duos, but in each of them cheeky humor coexists with envelope-pushing performance. On his new solo album, The Moonwalker (Leo), he alternates between tenor and baritone saxophones and bass clarinet, but he's also fond of interjecting vocal elements, such as the spirited pa-rum-pum-pums he scatters throughout "Banda Sbandata," Malian radio broadcasts, and field recordings of a Moroccan medicine man and Japanese schoolchildren. Dato keeps his pieces moving, both by making them brief and by exploring a wide range of grooves, textures, and ethnic flavors. He's driven by an improviser's mind-set, but finds inspiration in almost anything: "Witches" caroms from a bit of Albert Ayler's "Ghosts" to "Camptown Races" in 30 seconds flat. For this rare local gig he'll perform a solo set, then play duets with Ken Vandermark. Wednesday, April 11, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.


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