Katie Ernst, Sun Speak | Martyrs' | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Katie Ernst, Sun Speak Member Picks Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Mon., Feb. 2 2015

Working with a trio recently named Twin Talk, which includes saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi and drummer Andrew Green, bassist and singer Katie Ernst has been turning a lot of heads over the last year or two, both in Chicago and across the country. Pianist and MacArthur fellow Jason Moran was so impressed with her at a Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program in Washington, D.C., in 2013 that he invited her to participate in the multimedia performance he gave with visual artist Theaster Gates at Symphony Center last summer. Tonight Ernst celebrates Little Words, a self-released recording of the project she presented in Washington, for which she set the poetry of Dorothy Parker to original music. Throughout the seven pieces she displays a deep appreciation for the sound of words, elucidating each syllable with palpable relish. On “Bric-a Brac” she accompanies her crystal-clear delivery with only a lean bass pattern that sketches out the poem’s meter. The rest of the music features her with Laurenzi, Green, and the young New York pianist Samora Pinderhughes, who offer nimble, elastic performances that give her singing plenty of room to move. Still, Ernst is a restrained vocalist who eschews empty virtuosity and overkill; she imparts her melodies with stunning economy, a quality most singers in their 20s lack. For instance, she wastes no gestures even when attaching wordless vocal improv to “Anecdote,” the one and only piece where she adds an original couplet to clear up Parker’s ambiguity. Several tracks address failed romance with a mixture of bitterness and humor, and the music adjusts and adapts to the themes accordingly as it moves from delicate sweetness to polymetric turbulence. Ernst is one of the brightest lights on Chicago’s jazz scene, and she isn’t close to hitting her creative ceiling. Chicago pianist Stu Mindeman subs for Pinderhughes tonight. —Peter Margasak

Price: $10

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