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

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Hal Russell NRG Ensemble

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The prevailing wisdom is that as people get older they tend to settle down a bit, but not Hal Russell: as he's done throughout the career of his NRG Ensemble, the drummer/vibist/saxophonist/trumpeter turns the prevailing wisdom on its head. If anything, his music seems to grow more outrageous, unexpected, and raucously delightful each year. And flat-out funny: the man who once opened a concert with his band running around the stage wearing gas masks--who has composed an entire suite loopily based on the characters and musical themes of The Sound of Music--last year released an album called Hal on Earth, featuring the unforgettably self-effacing "Hal the Weenie." In a way, Russell reminds me of that weird uncle every family has (or should have) who either never learned or completely forgot the rules of adult decorum: as a result, he just says and does whatever comes into his head, and it's frequently the smartest stuff around. Russell's family of improvisers includes the sometime rock saxophonist Mars Williams--no slouch in the weird department himself--bassists Brian Sandstrom and Kent Kessler, and the spectacularly reliable Steve Hunt on drums and vibes. Thursday, 8 PM, Southend Musicworks, 1313 S. Wabash; 939-2848.

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

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