Kelly Brand Sextet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Kelly Brand Sextet


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The steady progress of pianist Kelly Brand's big little band has quietly emerged as a particularly satisfying local development. It gets a boost in the next month or two when Koch Jazz, a new national jazz label based in New York, issues A Dream in a Stone, the album that Brand released on her own in 1995. Brand built this band on the foundation of her long-running quartet: retaining the simpatico rhythm section, she added a three-horn ensemble that allowed her to beef up her writing--which had always shown plenty of promise. What's more, she has no qualms about incorporating the insights of her solid soloists (saxist Jim Gailoretto, trumpeter Art Davis, and bass trumpeter Ryan Shultz), who each explore her tunes in different ways. Brand wrote every song on the album, most of which will show up on this gig. "Uprooted" has an early-60s Art Blakey bounce with a Freddie Hubbard flair, while songs like "Night Vision" and "Patsy's Mandrill" have a slightly more contemporary edge. But everything Brand writes, including the unsentimental ballad "Lament for Lost Words," has a noteworthy craftsmanship and a flowing, even serene energy: strength without violence. As a pianist Brand has always used an odd mixture of blunt ideas and a polished attack, creating solos that resemble those of some lesser-known bebop players--like Herbie Nichols and Elmo Hope--in their emphasis on form and content over sparkle and glitz. But her playing takes on added luster in the company of this rhythm section (featuring her husband, Kelly Sill, on bass and Phil Gratteau on drums), which highlights what Brand has to offer. Friday, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bill Klewitz.

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