George Lewis | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Trombonist/composer George Lewis has consistently opted for the road less traveled in his 30 years of music making, from his early and formative membership in Chicago's groundbreaking AACM to his pioneering improvisations with electronics. His dazzling technical facility, redoubtable lyrical invention, and daring structural ideas have established him as one of postbop's most formidable trombonists--perhaps only the more centrist work of Albert Mangelsdorff and Ray Anderson proves equal. In the trio News for Lulu with John Zorn and Bill Frisell, his vibrantly modern but faithful revamps of Blue Note-era tunes by hard boppers like Kenny Dorham and Hank Mobley show off his command of standard jazz language, while his breathless playing with Anthony Braxton provides striking testimony to his more abstract yet still rooted side. As early as the late 70s, however, Lewis pushed his improv-based music in strange directions, recording a series of albums that incorporated live electronics and early synthesizers into a great variety of settings, from moderately composed works like 1979's brilliant Homage to Charles Parker (Black Saint) to modernistic excursions like1993's fascinating Voyager (Avant). The latter album is a collection of live interactions (performed by Lewis and saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell) with a sophisticated computer program; the machine responds to Lewis's playing with a complex, quasi-orchestral combination of random sonic impulses and highly sophisticated reactive commands. For this gig Lewis premieres a new interactive CD-ROM composition called One Family's Music, in which images culled from video footage of the composer's extended family, projected on a large screen, are triggered by his trombone playing. Spoken text and computer-generated sounds also coalesce into this dense, involving multimedia array. Lewis performs as part of "Audio Angels," a benefit for Chicago's Experimental Sound Studio; Lynn Book, Jim O'Rourke, Gene Coleman, and the trio of John Corbett, Terri Kapsalis, and Hal Rammel also appear. Saturday, 7:30 PM, Randolph Street Gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee; 784-0449.

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