Patrick Kelly & The Psychoacoustic Orchestra | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Patrick Kelly & The Psychoacoustic Orchestra

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The midwest's long and proud big-band tradition--which includes such giants as Basie and Goodman, Earl Hines and Jay McShann--has always centered on the regional jazz capitals of Kansas City and Chicago. But these days you can add the Queen City to the list. Last year no jazz orchestra in the midwest--and only a couple around the country--came up with an album as impressive as Supreme Thing (Cabin 2 Music), the debut from Cincinnati's PsychoAcoustic Orchestra. Like so many other contemporary bands, the PsychoAcoustics play with the mixture of casual precision and electric energy that Thad Jones brought to the big-band idiom in the 1960s, and like many of them, the soloists get the job done with little fuss and plenty of spirit. What sets this band apart is the writing of Patrick Kelly. On the ten pieces that make up their album, Kelly reveals himself as an imaginative (and sometimes inspired) composer and an even better arranger. His punchy, deep-focus sound features plenty of rhythmic variety, thanks in large part to his pointed use of the trombone section. (Unlike a number of his contemporaries, Kelly thinks of trombones as something other than just trumpets with a cold.) Even when he sticks to familiar big-band devices, Kelly usually manages to rise above mere cliche; and when he incorporates rock beats and bass lines--as on his arrangement of an old John McLaughlin gem, "The Dance of Maya"--these elements avoid the cheesy, artificial quality that too many other jazz orchestras have lent them. Kelly has given this band a distinct voice, and you owe it to yourself to listen up. The PsychoAcoustic Orchestra makes its local debut this weekend, alternating afternoon sets with Chicago trumpeter Steve Schneck (who has just released his own debut, Together Again, on Lake Shore Records). Their appearance caps the third annual Marshall Vente Jazz Fest, which also includes weekend performances by vocalists Joanie Pallatto and April Aloisio; West Indian steel-drum player Neville York; a new septet led by guitarist Frank Dawson; and Vente's own little big band, the Project 9+. Sunday, 1:30 PM, Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.

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