Chicago singer and poet Marvin Tate forms a versatile group that measures up to his compelling persona | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Chicago singer and poet Marvin Tate forms a versatile group that measures up to his compelling persona

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Poet, singer, and performer Marvin Tate has been a steady presence in Chicago’s artistic fringe for several decades, working with Leroy Bach’s art-funk band Uptighty back in the 90s while also fronting his own multidisciplinary omnibus D-Settlement. But I’d never paid him much more than passing attention until I caught him a few times in Mike Reed’s Flesh & Bone project, in which his presence, sense of rhythm, and language grabbed me by the throat. Tonight he celebrates the release of a new album, Kitchen Songs (Ivy-Rae), which is held together by his magnificent presence as it moves casually between R&B, funk, psych-rock, cabaret, and more without ever straightforwardly embracing any of them. Although a bit pitch-challenged and melodically clunky, Tate conveys such authority and packs such a metaphoric wallop into his warped depictions of and philosophical meditations on urban life that focusing on his technical shortcomings misses the point. The ten tracks on the album are powered by a versatile cast of musicians, including drummer Dan Bitney (Tortoise), bassist Matthew Lux, guitarist/banjoist Aaron Shapiro, and others who allow Tate to toggle between quasi-operatic crooning, soulful balladeering, forceful hectoring, and guttural chanting; no matter which direction he takes, the results are riveting.   v

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