Gene Coleman | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Gene Coleman




Sometimes you can literally see the exactitude and intellectual passion that drive Gene Coleman's clarinet playing and composing. His graphic scores, drafted in his precise hand, look almost as good in a frame as they sound in concert--and the hardwood dance floor he just installed at the new HotHouse is pretty impressive too. But as both a player and a writer, Coleman finds ways to temper his innate orderliness. He attacks his reeds gutturally, using throaty split tones at both ends of the instruments' ranges; he builds tension with ferocious displays of technique; and on about half his compositions he fires things up with select small explosions of improvisation. An excellent example of his writing is "Ether Lift," which appears on Guillermo Gregorio's Ellipsis (Hatology); the detonation of several such devices creates propulsive excitement without damaging the piece's rock-solid structure. For the performance-and-discussion format of the Cultural Center's monthly "Rollin' on Randolph" series, Coleman has selected three of his pieces--two quite recent--that explore "the use of improvisation and/or expanded interpretive roles for musicians." He'll play bass clarinet, the reed he's focused on most intently in recent years, and bring along bassist Michael Cameron, pianist Matt Long, and violist Shelley Weiss--all members of Ensemble Noamnesia, the new-music collective he's led for more than a decade. Coleman and his music are equally unpretentious, and this program offers a rare chance to hear not only his work but also his clear, occasionally poetic explanations of it. Saturday, 2 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-1430, 312-744-6630, or 312-346-3278. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Nathan Mandell.

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