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New-Trad Octet

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Reedist Jeff Newell, founder of the New-Trad Octet, left Chicago for Brooklyn in the mid-90s, and has since put together a second, entirely different lineup that performs under the same name in New York--but the NTO remains essentially a Chicago creation, and it never sounds better than in the city of its birth. In part this is a matter of timing: without fail, the band plays here right around Mardi Gras, the better to invoke the New Orleans textures and rhythms that first inspired Newell in the mid-80s--and unlike in Louisiana, hereabouts mid-February is still snowdrift season, when folks most need the warmth the octet can generate. But it also has much to do with the fact that Chicago-based NTO stalwarts like trumpeter Orbert Davis, pianist Steve Million, guitarist John McLean, and drummer Rick Vitek helped create its repertoire and have played it more than anyone else. In the NTO, Newell applies the modified march beats and three-horn unison parts of preprohibition N'Awlins street music, underscored by agile tuba lines, to both material from the formative years of jazz (W.C. Handy's "Saint Louis Blues") and songs that came a good deal later, written by the likes of Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Charles Mingus. It's anachronism in motion: an early-21st-century band that plays music written in the second half of the 20th century, but frames it in the trappings of the first half. It's also a whole bunch of fun, with Newell's keening alto and soprano up top, Davis's strutting trumpet on the leads, and McLean's very electric guitar, which forces a new perspective on these 90-year-old rhythms--not just with his sometimes far-flung solos but also with the mere presence in this context of amplifier effects like fuzz and sustain. The New-Trad Octet, less raw and gritty than Crescent City outfits like the Dirty Dozen or Rebirth brass bands, reflects Newell's own brand of respect for the music's history--a reverence for traditions that's in constant collision with a postmodern knack for deconstructing them. Saturday, February 9, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. Tuesday, February 12, 6:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

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