Juilliard String Quartet With the Billy Taylor Trio | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Juilliard String Quartet With the Billy Taylor Trio

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Ever since Paul Whiteman decided to "legitimize" jazz, the music has endured a persistent string of attempts to fuse jazz's energy and spontaneity with the majestic sweep of orchestral music. (In a limited way, this fusion has become 20th-century music's Holy Grail.) Some of these attempts have failed utterly; most of the rest have just failed period; a sporadic few have made the conceptual leap into a new form, a "third stream" of musical consciousness. Is Dr. Billy Taylor (known for his reports on CBS's Sunday Morning) one of these? The answer lies in the Chicago premiere (and only the second public performance anywhere) of Homage, a new Taylor piece for the Juilliard Quartet and Taylor's trio (featuring bassist Victor Gaskin and drummer Bobby Thomas). Dedicated to four great jazz string players--two bassists and two violinists--and incorporating substantial sections of improvisation, Homage could be great, could be awful; in any case, it's certain to be well played given the virtuoso abilities of the quartet. The classically trained Taylor also possesses a sure-handed technique, but his recent recordings have lacked spark and depth; the different surroundings may provide a welcome change. The program also features two trio compositions by Taylor, and Haydn's Quartet in C Major played by the Juilliard. Monday, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 242-6237, 663-1628, or 435-8122.

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