Evolution Ensemble | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Evolution Ensemble Recommended Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Wed., March 25, 8:30 p.m. 2009

There’s not much Dee Alexander can’t do. She’s as resourceful a vocal improviser as I’ve ever heard, with astonishing control of pitch and modulation, and she’s just as adept at working a standard as she is at threading wordless sounds and abstract melodic shapes into a loose, freewheeling record like last year’s Blissful (Rogue Art), a knockout session led by drummer Hamid Drake. On her first properly released album, Wild Is the Wind (Blujazz), she covers her entire dizzying range in a rock-solid set of tightly focused tunes, displaying both awesome technique and rare discipline and making a strong case for herself as one of the most exciting jazz singers on the planet. On the title track she opens by shaping the sorrowful melody with a light touch; even more impressive, her performance stays just as nuanced when she swells into a huge crescendo. And her detours into pure sound—like her imitations of violin pizzicato on the reggaefied ballad “Rossignol”—are never self-indulgent, displaying an economy and focus I wish more scatters would embrace. Tonight Alexander sings with the improvisation-oriented Evolution Ensemble, which also includes violinist James Sanders, cellist Tomeka Reid, and bassist Josh Abrams. -Peter Margasak

Price: $15

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