Jeb Bishop Trio | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jeb Bishop Trio

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Ten years ago Jeb Bishop's trombone gathered dust in his parents' North Carolina attic while he played bass in rock bands and matriculated as a philosophy grad student; now it's the textbooks that gather dust, and he's become one of the most ubiquitous horn players on Chicago's creative-music scene. Bishop moves effortlessly between swinging rhythms and free forms, and he makes especially eloquent use of muting and multiphonics, the techniques that bring out the trombone's vocal qualities. His transformation began in 1993, when he joined the Flying Luttenbachers and first played with saxophonist Ken Vandermark. Their partnership has endured to this day; besides playing together nearly every week in the Vandermark 5, they've shared stages in School Days, the Territory Band, Vandermark's Joe Harriott project, and Peter Brotzmann's Chicago Tentet. Bishop is also equally at home playing complex notated material with saxophonist Chris Jonas or the contemporary chamber-music group Ensemble Noamnesia, improvising freely with John Butcher or Joe McPhee, and backing up pop groups like Tortoise and Stereolab. It took him a while to step out in front of a band of his own: his trio with bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Tim Mulvenna, who also play in the Vandermark 5, didn't release its eponymously titled CD until 1999, but it was worth the wait. Jeb Bishop Trio is one of the best jazz records to come out of Chicago since Air and the Art Ensemble left town in the 70s. It turns out Bishop is as good a writer as he is a player, with a knack for composing voluptuous, indelible melodies that are apt springboards for extended improvisations. On their forthcoming second album, Afternoons (Okka Disk), the band is joined by guitarist Jeff Parker, who contributes plush chords to new tunes like the ballad "No More and No Less" and Sonny Sharrock-like noise to "Flex Time." Parker was slated to play this show, too, but it turns out he'll be on his way to Australia with Tortoise, so the group will most likely perform as a trio. Tuesday, October 9, 7:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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

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