Fred Simon Group | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Fred Simon Group

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Fred Simon is (a) a committed composer who draws equally from jazz, the Beatles, and European impressionism for his inspiration; (b) a strong pianist, with Keith Jarrett sitting on one shoulder and Joni Mitchell on the other; (c) an improviser whose skills continue to sharpen with each new project. After a decade of Chicago visibility (as coleader of the old Simon and Bard group), and with a big-time new album (on Windham Hill), Simon and his music are known quantities to many listeners. This new sextet is not. It's Simon's "dream band," which he's been hoping to assemble for a while now, including two guitarists: Bob Palmieri on electric, and acoustic wizard Dave Onderdonk, whose compositional ability matches and complements Simon's own. On top of the guitars rides Jim Gailloreto, perhaps my favorite unknown saxophonist (most other saxists, I go to hear play, but Gailloreto, I go to hear think); underneath it all is the versatile Curt Bley on bass, and drummer Mark Walker, whose brain seems naturally attuned to rhythmic complexity and turns the time around as easily as most of us drink. Simon's Usually/Always album boasts fine and affecting compositions, but no improvisation; that will not be the case with this whose individual talents are so compatible with Simon's brand of modern romance. Tonight, Orphans, 2464 N. Lincoln; 929-2677.

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

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