John McLean has played taut, tortuous guitar on a slew of discs by his fellow Chicagoans, including vocalist Grazyna Auguscik's new The Light (GMA). Auguscik and violinist Zach Brock--whose own new disc, Chemistry (Secret Fort), features his band the Coffee Achievers--both play in a charismatic septet that McLean has led a couple of times at the Green Mill. And McLean himself is about to release Better Angels, his second album and the first featuring the septet. So this show, which caps the Saturday schedule of the city's Winter Delights Jazz Fair, is a three-way CD release party. Better Angels was unavailable at press time, but the other two albums represent significant departures for both Brock and Auguscik. On Past Forward (2003), her previous album, Auguscik explored the interstices between jazz, Polish folk, and klezmer; on The Light she expertly weaves an unusual range of ballads (by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Patricia Barber) and Brazilian tunes into a moody sound track for a misty day. On Chemistry, Brock speeds past the mainstream modernism that distinguished his band's self-titled 2003 debut; he and his bandmates occasionally ramp up the electronics to approximate the sounds that Jean-Luc Ponty and Michal Urbaniak pioneered in the 70s, while wordless vocals from guest Melissa Styliznou further separate the album from its predecessor. This concert is one of the first held entirely on the Pritzker Pavilion stage; sliding glass doors will protect the players and the listeners from the elements. Brock and the Coffee Achievers also play a free show Sun 1/23, 8 PM, at Morseland, 1218 W. Morse; call 773-764-8900. Sat 1/22, 7:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 100 N. Michigan, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Michael Jackson.