Jazz Idiom Big Band With Don Menza | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jazz Idiom Big Band With Don Menza

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Don Menza writes arrangements that would make almost any band sound good. And the Jazz Idiom Big Band--directed by one of Chicago's most adept jazz orchestra leaders, Mayo Tiana--can make almost any arrangement sound good. So you can't go far wrong with this one. Menza, who will perform with the band in the concert's second half, has supplied swaggering tenor solos to the big bands of Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, and others. Yet his arrangements are distinguished by an ability to bring the warmth and immediacy of a small group to the big-band palette. (Some arrangers, in a misplaced devotion to Ellington, have made their work excessively fussy; others have confused Basie's basics with an unappealing bluntness. But Menza's writing, like his tenor work, dives in and plunges forward without sacrificing either punch or wit.) The concert features several new works; the often spectacular ensemble work supports standout solos by saxist Jeff Newell, trumpeter George Bean, bass trumpeter Ryan Shultz, and pianist Eddie Baker, among others. For obvious reasons they've titled the concert "Menza Menza," but that's misleading: this concert promises to be anything but mediocre. Sunday, 4 PM, Grand Ballroom, Holiday Inn City Centre, 300 E. Ohio; 764-9515.

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