Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid

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At heart drummer Steve Reid is a jazzman: he's spent four decades playing with the likes of Dexter Gordon, Sun Ra, and Miles Davis, and during the 70s he was a mainstay of New York's free-jazz scene. But unlike many skinsmen on that scene, Reid never gave up the groove, keeping the music swinging no matter how wild the front line got. As a leader he recorded a few Coltrane-influenced discs in the 70s for his own label, Mustevic Sound, whose catalog has recently been reissued on London's Soul Jazz label. And Reid's had a solid career outside jazz as well: he started out in R & B, playing on Martha & the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street" when he was just 19, and he recorded and toured with James Brown in the 60s before spending several years in Africa with Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and Ghanaian drummer Guy Warren. (Following his return to the States, he served two years in jail for draft evasion.) These days he lives in Switzerland, and he gathered a group of Europeans to record last year's Spirit Walk (Soul Jazz), a searing collection of soulful post-Trane stormers and funky breakdowns where he masterfully breaks up his driving ride-cymbal and snare action with roiling polyrhythms. Kieran Hebden, aka British producer Four Tet, adds some splattery electronics that sometimes seem like gilding the lily, but his coloristic abstractions make more sense when the music loosens up. The two have also recorded some improvised sessions as a duo, which make up the new The Exchange Session Vol. 1 (Domino). Reid favors a more clattery, rumbling attack here than on his group outings; Hebden stretches, cuts up, loops, and scrambles samples of horns, African string instruments, and other trancey textures. The superb duo of Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake opens. Wed 4/5, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15.

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