When: Sat., Dec. 3, 8:30 p.m. 2016
Tenor saxophonist Nate Lepine represents Chicago in both sound and action. He’s got a brawny yet agile tone, full of soul and grit, and his work ethic is strictly blue-collar. He’s versatile and curious enough to operate in many different contexts, whether playing in rock bands like Poi Dog Pondering or Cursive, serving a crucial ensemble role in the jazz group Herculaneum, or playing with fire and swinging elegance in countless ad hoc groups. In recent years he’s been stepping out more often as a leader, and after more than two decades of playing he’s finally dropped his first album with Vortices (Ears & Eyes), a quartet session that’s every bit as flinty and direct as it is unassuming. Lepine reveals a strong rapport with alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella, his front-line partner, as they confidently glide over ruddy yet elastic grooves sculpted by bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Quin Kirchner. Most of the slaloming melodies are delivered in precise unison passages, building thickness and muscle before the horn players veer off for extended solos. Mazzarella chews up the scenery in a less referential fashion than he does in many of his own projects, while Lepine is unwearied in his embrace of the melody, breaking down phrases quietly before picking up steam. The recording captures a no-frills band operating at a very high level, revealing the craftsmanship and emotional heft that so many Chicago musicians seize in favor of flash and facile gestures.
Price: $10, $5 students