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Chicago Jazz Ensemble

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The Chicago Jazz Ensemble under William Russo's direction has shaped itself into not only an excellent repertory orchestra but an occasionally groundbreaking one as well: when they performed such symphonic-length works as Ellington's Far East and New Orleans Suites, for instance, it marked the first complete public performance of each piece. So it is with tonight's premiere of Sketches of Spain, which remains the best known of the several recorded collaborations between Miles Davis and the peerless arranger Gil Evans. In fact, this concert should extend both the CJE's reputation and its capabilities, because Sketches is no day at the Costa del Sol--particularly its lengthy opening segment, Evans's extraordinary adaptation of the brooding, hymnlike Concierto de Aranjuez. Evans's delicately nuanced palette requires exquisite control of tone and balance, and the piece's range of tempos and frequently shifting meters places heavy demands on even the best-trained musicians. (A member of the original recording session, trombonist Frank Rehak, summed it up by saying, "To count [the music] at all, you have to count four [notes] on every beat.") In his mysteriously textured settings of Spanish, folk, flamenco, and classical music Evans captured the whole Spanish countryside and much of the Iberian climate as well--you'd swear you can hear the clouds. And all this takes place behind the trumpet soloing of a Davis: Miles on the original recording and Chicago trumpet star Orbert Davis (whose quintet recently won a national jazz competition) at tonight's event. The CJE will round out the program with vintage examples of the long marriage between jazz and Latin music, including Russo's own classic "23¡ North--82¡ West" (titled for the global coordinates of Cuba) and featuring guest percussionist Alejo Poveda. Friday, 7 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 929-5959 or 559-1212.

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

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