Chicago Jazz Orchestra With Ron Perrillo | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Chicago Jazz Orchestra With Ron Perrillo

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Thelonious Monk is best remembered for his classic quartet recordings, but he applied his keen ear to other formats as well. In the late 40s he wrote for multiple horns and Milt Jackson's vibraphone; in the late 50s and early 60s he worked with composer Hall Overton to produce terrific orchestrations of his songs for a ten-piece band. Then, in 1968, Oliver Nelson created a set of arrangements for a standard jazz big band, though they were widely disparaged for misplacing the essence of Monk's music. The Chicago Jazz Orchestra will re-create the work of both Overton and Nelson here with pianist Ron Perrillo, who's not the obvious choice for this program. Like virtually every modern pianist (and most of Monk's contemporaries, for that matter), Perrillo can dance jigs around Monk's uniquely deliberate technique; his expansive chords have little in common with Monk's spare keyboard stabs, and his serpentine improvisations bear no resemblance to Monk's deceptively simplistic solos. But I've heard Perrillo bring a suitably stark touch to Monk's music, and the two do share a mastery of harmonic nuance, even if Perrillo takes it in a different direction. And Perrillo's best solos have a satisfying, self-fulfilling logic--a quality that pretty much defined Monk's iconoclastic music. For the second half of the concert the CJO will by joined by the apparently ageless alto saxist Phil Woods, who played with Monk on the original big-band recordings. Despite serious respiratory issues, Woods still plays with the lyric complexity and bright, hale tone that place him among the most inspired bop saxists to emerge in the 50s. Sun 3/19, 3 PM, Harold Washington Library Center, auditorium, 400 S. State, 773-655-1175, $19-$25. All ages.

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