Jerry Granelli | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jerry Granelli

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Even though he turns 55 this year, the profile of percussionist Jerry Granelli has only recently started to come into focus; the emerging picture has plenty to recommend it. It would have come as little surprise if Granelli--who studied with Dave Brubeck's drummer Joe Morello and who has a host of sideman credits on his resume--had settled into a discernible niche playing straight-ahead jazz. His refusal to do that, however, stands responsible for a wide range of noteworthy projects. He has appeared in duet and quartet settings with the postfreedom vocalist Jay Clayton, framing her often wordless flights of extended technique with appropriate rhythmic commentary. A couple years ago he released an unexpectedly marvelous album inspired by the mysterious novel Coming Through Slaughter (which is set in early-20th-century New Orleans and revolves around the equally mysterious life of the legendary trumpeter Buddy Bolden). This summer brought us Another Place, one of two new Granelli releases, filled with richly embroidered performances featuring saxist Jane Ira Bloom and trombonist Julian Priester; indeed the attention to textural detail, as much as anything, distinguishes Granelli's music in the 90s (and should place this album on a few top-ten lists). Unfortunately, Granelli doesn't tour with that band. The group he brings to Chicago, called UFB, plays a different tune altogether: with two guitars as the front line and lots of material from outside the pure-jazz tradition, it represents Granelli's version of postfusion electric jazz. On their debut album, News From the Street (Intuition), UFB beg the question of whether they play jazz or just some of the best instrumental rock and blues on the scene today; certainly their slow blues numbers should manage to please denizens of both north-side jazz joints and west-side blues bars. For me UFB is the least interesting of the groupings Granelli has assembled, but it still displays an impressive musicality, Granelli's now-expected craftsmanship, and a couple of powerhouse guitar players in German youths Kal Bruckner and Christian Kogel. Saturday, 9 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

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