Mike LeDonne Quartet With Eric Alexander | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Mike LeDonne Quartet With Eric Alexander

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Mike LeDonne's piano lines breathe the clean open air of simpler times--the 1950s to be exact, when bebop relaxed a little and piano giants like Wynton Kelly and Tommy Flanagan were modifying the rarefied message sent down by Bud Powell. LeDonne doesn't ape this piano heritage so much as he extends it; and the comfort he takes in the style's funkier edges helps explain why he fits so well with an artist like Milt Jackson, with whom he often appears. True to the idiom, LeDonne always keeps a little something in reserve (helping imbue his music with an unmistakable cool). As a result, his weekend matchup with saxist Eric Alexander could provide a delightful creative tension. Alexander--who built his chops in Chicago before placing second in the Thelonious Monk Institute's sax competition and moving to New York--seems to hold nothing back: he spins out his lines in long-limbed sweeps or short bursts, but with what seems to be maximum emotion in every case. Alexander returns home on the heels of his debut album, Straight Up (Delmark), a fiery quintet date with echoes of vintage Dexter Gordon and Wayne Shorter. The combination with LeDonne's more circumspect vision will (one hopes) offer just the right artistic frisson. Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552.

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