comment

Pay attention to John McLean: at the present time Chicago boasts no guitarist more consistently intriguing or satisfying. The evidence lies in a few recorded outings--locally produced albums by Patricia Barber and Jeff Stitely--and in his devastating onstage performances with a variety of Chicago bands. McLean brings an impressive intensity and focus to his playing; you can hear it in the fluid forcefulness of his attack and the precision of his trickiest constructions (and you can see it in the contorted distraction of his facial expressions). Like most of his contemporaries, McLean bears the mark of Pat Metheny and John Scofield, the two most important guitarists of the modern mainstream, but only rarely does he actually sound like either one of them--and when he does, it has more to do with the lean crispness of his improvisations than with any particular stylistic borrowing. McLean has just started to move out on his own, and this weekend's gig marks an important step in his evolution--at least according to an advance hearing of a few tunes on the menu. Matching up with the flat, open sound of Jim Gailloreto's sax, McLean's new music has a distinctly Scandinavian sensibility, with the shiver imparted by his guitar spikes recalling the cool (and even icy) ECM recordings that Terje Rypdal and Jan Garbarek made in the 1970s and '80s. I don't mean to label this music as bloodless or unemotional: rather, McLean celebrates an artistic aesthetic in which the contours have hard, angled edges instead of warm, fuzzy outlines. Among its other virtues, such music is hardly unwelcome for the kind of weather we've seen this summer. And as the example of dry ice reminds us, if you get something cold enough, it can start to steam. Saturday, 9 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

Add a comment