Jeff Stitely Project with Liam Teague | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jeff Stitely Project with Liam Teague




Anyone who's heard Trinidadian steel-drum players only in the usual giant festival competitions and scintillating parade performances will likely cock an eyebrow at the thought of jazz played on the pan--the Caribbean term for this instrument originally constructed from a 45-gallon oil drum. But anyone familiar with the extraordinary fluency of improvisers Andy Narell and Othello Molineaux, both of whom augment the instrument's island heritage with postbop chromatics and rapid-fire solos, will nod knowingly at the prospect. Liam Teague, who moved to the U.S. from his native Trinidad in the late 80s, belongs in the same class as Narell and Molineaux. In technique he measures up favorably to virtuosos of more conventional instruments, and his speediest lines have an almost phosphorescent glow. More important, Teague displays a fine command of timbre--essential when playing an instrument with such a limited, if distinctive, range. On ballads he tends to concentrate on the pan's mellower low notes and uses the upper register mostly for accents and to convey developing intensity; but on Emotions of Steel (on the Trinidadian label Engine Room;, he starts in the high notes to echo a seraphic choir for the classic jazz homage "I Remember Clifford." On fast bebop numbers he lets those same notes grow loud and shrill, which gives a song like "Night in Tunisia" a suitable edge--though in such cases I wish he'd make better use of the low register for dramatic effect. Teague appears as a guest artist with Jeff Stitely's group for the penultimate program in a weekly series that seeks to combine jazz with folk and world music; as drummer Stitely has made extensive studies of African and Afro-Caribbean rhythms, this promises to be the most successful of the matchups. His trio also includes the underexposed bassist Bill Harrison and Dave Onderdonk, a jazz guitarist especially conversant in folk and rock. Wednesday, 7 PM, Bop Shop, 1146 S. Wabash; 312-922-3233. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Liam Teague photo/ uncredited.

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