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

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Carlo Actis Dato


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In the 1980s, when the Italian improvising scene really made its bones, no one had a bigger impact than reedist Carlo Actis Dato. He can make a battering ram of a baritone saxophone, with a sound that's even and forceful in the upper and lower registers, and his precise attack lets him articulate sawtooth lines at high speed. He's a good raspy tenor player too, and he gets a dense hardwood sound from his bass clarinet, which he uses as an all-purpose folk ax--from didgeridoo to popping Dixieland "gaspipe." Born in Turin in 1952, Actis Dato has lived in northern and southern Italy and traveled widely in Africa and Asia, and his music abounds with folkloric references: loopy circular forms, pentatonic melodies, and intricate culture-specific dance beats he steps in and out of with aplomb. In the 80s he began leading an excellent (and still extant) quartet with fellow reedist Piero Ponzo, a nimble group long overdue for a U.S. tour, and he also plays in the 18-piece Italian Instabile Orchestra, which drew oohs and aahs at the Chicago Jazz Festival a couple years ago. But Actis Dato tours mostly by himself, showing off his powerhouse technique, clear compositional ideas, and toe-tapping people appeal. Alas, there's a catch. Like Dutch bandleader Willem Breuker, an obvious forebear on this score, Actis Dato will stick with a shtick that has worked before, but grows less chortlesome in rerun--such as assembling or disassembling a horn in the course of a piece. One might wish for a little more improvising to go with the boffo sound; to that end, he'll be joined for half the show by cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, a subtle and witty provocateur, and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche. Saturday, February 9, 2 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630.

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