Hal Russell NRG Ensemble | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Hal Russell NRG Ensemble

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It's sometimes startling to realize how many people remain unaware of the NRG Ensemble. Those who've heard this group over the years (or better, seen the group: they incorporate visual stimuli, sometimes even film clips, into their performances) carry around impressions so vivid, we tend to assume that everyone else has them too--as if the group were some black-sheep chapter of the collective unconscious. In other words, once I you've seen 'em, you won't forget about it. Led by Hal Russell, who plays saxophones, trumpet, drums, and vibes, the NRG Ensemble packs a numbing diversity of information into the music, which bounds freely from mood to mood and tempo to texture. Listing comparative influences might help you get the picture, but Russell's rowdies are really sui generis: comparisons fail. A typical set brims over with stellar group improvisation, outrageous humor, and a seemingly uncontainable energy. They're wild, they're deep, and they're going to Europe: this performance is a benefit to help defray costs of their upcoming appearance at the Moers Jazz Festival in Germany, which is among the continent's most renowned gatherings of free and progressive jazz. Thursday, 8:30 PM, Club Lower Links, 954 W. Newport; 248-5238.

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

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