Ilona Knopfler | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ilona Knopfler

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Jazz vocalist Ilona Knopfler throws together an odd assortment of ingredients on the opening track of her 2005 album, Live the Life (Mack Avenue). "I'm Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Song," is a hymn written by gospel pioneer Thomas A. Dorsey, but instead of the church choir you might expect, Knopfler uses a chorus comprising multiple tracks of her own voice, purring substitute harmonies from the modern-jazz theory book a la the Manhattan Transfer or New York Voices. She then switches to French for a few turns through the melody before bringing in a church organ at the very end. That she can make the whole thing sound of a piece speaks to her command of the material--just as the rest of the disc attests to her personal and professional cosmopolitanism. (Born in Paris, she spent her formative years in Hong Kong and eventually headed to New York, where she studied theater; she now splits her time between Paris and Atlanta.) Knopfler sings unaccented English in clarion tones, and she has a wonderful sense of swing, usually kept nicely restrained; when she does let loose, it's with the force of a typhoon. For her Chicago debut she'll perform with a trio, which should prove instructive: the album owes much of its success to her interactions with the lush or brassy arrangements, and I can only hope she'll navigate the narrower streams of a small combo with similar skill and imagination. Mon 6/5, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $6.

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