Mike Kocour Trio | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Mike Kocour Trio

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When pianist Mike Kocour left the faculty of the Northwestern University School of Music last year to move to Tempe, Arizona, his departure did more than just weaken the department's jazz studies program--it deprived Chicago of an especially well respected musician who was often requested by out-of-town headliners. Now that Kocour runs the jazz program at Arizona State University, we're missing his Monday-night trio dates at Pete Miller's, his sunlit soloing behind James Moody or Ira Sullivan at the Jazz Showcase, and his heady, hearty organ playing in the two-keyboard trio Monk's Dream. Kocour has the requisite technical facility and several things more: a finely honed harmonic imagination, a scratch golfer's easy swing, and a hair-trigger command of dynamics that lets him suddenly send a line soaring and just as suddenly drop it to a whisper. Above all he brings an unusual comity to the bandstand: whenever I've heard him, he's sparked the proceedings in unassuming ways, with supportive comp work and solos that meet the songs' demands. Chalk it up to good karma or an unjaundiced view of the jazz life, but either way Kocour always nudges the music into a more rounded whole than it might have been without him. He's just put out a lovely new trio disc, High Standards, featuring his longtime Chicago rhythm mates, bassist Kelly Sill and drummer Joel Spencer; this homecoming reunion is a release party. Mon 5/23, 8:30 PM, Pete Miller's Seafood & Prime Steak, 1557 Sherman, Evanston, 847-328-0399. Free. All ages.

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